The protection of creations of the human mind, and trade symbols of various types fall within the scope of intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights can be divided into industrial legal protection and copyright. Industrial legal protection includes protection of technical solutions through patents, the protection of design (appearance) through design protection and the protection of trademarks and other symbols through trademark protection. Copyright provides protection for music, literature and other artistic creations.
Intellectual property rights are international, and have been developed through the joint efforts of many different countries. Most countries are linked to various international agreements.
Patents offer inventors legal protection for technical innovations within certain geographical areas for a limited time period therein providing inventors with stabile differentiation of their invention and a clear competitive advantage. Sole right means that the inventor, for a limited period of time can prevent others from using the invention for commercial purposes. In return for this protection, he or she is responsible for correctly and completely making the invention generally known to the public at large, so that others may be provided with the opportunity to continue technical development.
An invention must fulfil three requirements to be patented. It has to be completely new, i.e. not previously known anywhere in the world. It shall resolve a particular technical problem, and it shall distinguish itself from a technical standpoint before the date of patent application. Moreover, it shall not have been available to a specialist in the technical field to which it belongs.
In Sweden as in most other countries, the patent is granted for a period of twenty years. In some categories the patent period may be up to a maximum of 25 years. The patent application, and later the granted patent are maintained through annual fees to respective patent authorities. When the patent has expired, all other organisations and individuals may use the technology freely without having to obtain permission or pay a fee.
A trademark is a symbol that serves the purpose of distinguishing a particular business proprietor’s goods and services from another’s. The importance and value of trademarks is increasing concurrent with the increased amount of similar products and services on the market as well as the importance of image.
When time limited sole rights such as design and patent protection expire, it is the trademark in many fields that becomes the most important means of competing.
A trademark should always be protected by registration, which is the legal basis for the scope of protection. The trademark is registered in Sweden, as in most other countries, for a period of ten years. The protection can then be renewed for further ten-year periods indefinitely.
Copyright is an intellectual property right that belongs to the author or creator exclusively upon creation of the work. Examples of works that are protected by copyright are both written and oral productions, computer programs, musical compositions and applied art. For a work or production to be protected, it is necessary for it to reach the level of what is considered to be a work or production. It is within this context that the determination of the right to protection lies.
Industrial design protection can be received for a product or product component’s appearance. It applies to crafts or industrial products regardless of whether they are ornamental in nature or articles to be used for a particular purpose; however this does not include computer programs. Industrial design protection is only granted for designs that are new and distinctive. A design is considered to be distinctive if a knowledgeable user’s overall impression of the design differs from the overall impression of all other designs that have been generally available previous to the date of patent application.
A proprietor who is in possession of Swedish industrial design protection is entitled to prohibit others from professionally or commercially using the design within Sweden’s borders. This includes the manufacture, offering, marketing and importing or exporting to or from Sweden. It also includes using a product in which the design is contained or used, or having such products in stock for such purposes.
In Sweden, sole rights to design extend for a period of five years beginning on the date of application. Protection can be extended for further five-year periods up to a total of 25 years. Spare parts can be protected for up to 15 years.
As a domain name corresponds to an ability to make contact with its holder, so it can also be seen as falling under intellectual property rights and placed on an equal footing with patents, trademarks and designs.
A domain name is a company’s personal address on the Internet. There are different types of domain names and they are hierarchically structured (top, alternate top and sub). These include top domain name extensions such as .se for Sweden or .de for Germany as well as .org for non-profit organisations. Examples of alternative top domains are SKF, Ericsson etc.