International Patent Protection - A Chance for Polish Higher Education Institutions.
Out of the total number of patents held by Polish higher education institutions, merely 4 percent are international patents. In contrast, foreign patents comprise as much as 58% of the patent portfolio of their French counterparts. This means that 96% of inventions conceived by Polish higher education schools will never make it abroad. This sounds rather gloomy, especially in view of the fact that patent protection increases the market potential of an invention and often gives opportunities for commercial cooperation with the world’s business giants.
The patent strategy boils down to patenting the right invention at the right time and in the right place. Unfortunately, very often decisions made to protect an intellectual property block any subsequent decisions which could significantly increase the potential of the owner of such property. This study discusses the issue of the geographical patenting strategy. Many publications talk about the low innovative competitiveness and low level of implementations of Polish higher education institutions. One reason behind the insufficient commercial use of Poland’s scientific potential is the average profile of the patent portfolio of Polish higher education schools. Most of them patent their inventions only in Poland, mainly due to the fact that the cost of an international patent application exceeds several fold the cost of patenting an invention in the Polish Patent Office. This creates a vicious circle, as lack of international applications automatically puts Poland on the list of countries unattractive from the point of view of potential licensing of intellectual property or any other form of technology transfer. Polish higher education institutions must come to understand that taking their technological offer abroad - to bigger markets where intellectual property is seen as a source of multiplying one’s profits - will increase their opportunities to generate revenues, or at least cover the costs of international protection, not to mention the opportunity to improve Poland’s status on the list of innovative countries.
A frequent dilemma facing entities submitting patent applications is the cost of an international application. Hence, in many cases, they choose to patent their inventions in Poland only, thus significantly limiting the market potential of their patents. In each case, however, a careful analysis of the patent costs and the market potential of an invention should be carried out. International protection significantly increases the market potential of an invention and attracts potential licensees. Valuation of a future patent in many cases justifies the costs of its protection. Narrow protection, for example, limited only to the territory of Poland, is not costly and amounts to only PLN 550. Valuation of such a patent (or an invention protected by it) is lower than in the case of a similar invention protected by an international application. The reason behind this situation is that a business entity investing in such a patent enjoys exclusive rights only in the territory of Poland and bears respective license fees (due to the licensor). Foreign competition can produce and sell the subject of such an invention without having to pay any license fees; its market position or profitability is then much better.
The best solution is rational protection of one’s inventions – international protection should be sought only in the case of those inventions which are not too specific for the domestic market. Having submitted an application, one should start an immediate search for a business partner to take over further protection costs. PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) is an international patent protection agreement, which, by 24 December 2009, had been signed by 142 countries (http://www.sapat.co.za/patent-pct.htm). This means that applying for PCT protection, we enjoy global protection at the application stage, and can choose from among 142 countries from which to obtain a patent.
Going international is necessary in order to increase the competitiveness of Polish companies and schools at the level of commercialization of research results. Today’s licensees are mainly business entities enjoying strong global position, operating through offices located in many countries, not necessarily in Poland.