Here it is, the idea that will make you the next Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Madam CJ Walker. Let’s take a look at intellectual property rights to protect your idea and your business.
Can you protect an idea with intellectual property?
NO, YOU CAN’T. Let’s make one thing clear, the idea of the iPhone is not protectable, but on the other hand the innovative technologies implemented, its shape, its name or its software are. The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) reminds us that “ideas cannot be protected, only the form in which they are expressed is intellectual property. There are four main rights that allow you to protect your ideas.
Trademark law protects registered signs. To be protected, a trademark must have
- have a distinctive character,
- be non-descriptive (you cannot sell apples and register the trademark Beautiful apples for example),
- respect public order and good morals,
- not infringe on the prior rights of third parties.
Be careful! You cannot protect banal signs, abbreviations, generic designations or coats of arms.
Trademarks can be protected for 10 years and can be extended indefinitely from 10 years to 10 years.
Patents protect inventions or, as the IPI puts it: “technical solutions to technical problems”.
Here again, a few minimum conditions govern protection. A patent is only granted if the invention
- results from an inventive step
- is new,
- has an industrial application.
Also note that when you wish to have your invention protected by a patent you must agree to disclose your invention.
It is important to note that when you apply for a patent, you have the obligation to put together a file explaining all the information about the invention you wish to patent. You therefore reveal to the general public all the information about your invention, but in return you are protected from any copy for a maximum of 20 years.
Be careful! You do not have the right to protect :
- animal breeds and plant varieties,
- methods of diagnosis,
- methods of therapeutic or surgical treatment applied to the human or animal body,
- inventions that offend public morality and order
- certain biotechnological inventions.
The costs of a patent depend on the complexity of the invention but especially on the extent of the geographical coverage. Count CHF20’000 to CHF30’000 to obtain a patent in Europe. It is expensive, but less than facing the competition for years.
The design right protects the external shape of an object (its contour). Here too, there are a few minimum requirements to protect your design. Your design must be
- Be new
- Be original – it must be distinguishable from other designs. The general impression of certain major features of our design must be different from other designs.
- Respect public order and good morals
You cannot protect designs that have only technical functions, ideas and concepts, and creations that violate federal law or international treaties.
Your design is thus protected for 5 years, renewable 5 times (i.e. a maximum of 25 years of protection)
Copyright is a right since it arises without the need to file an application for protection. Any literary and artistic work (including software) is automatically protected.
Be careful! The work must result from a literary or artistic creation of the mind and must have an individual character (originality).
However, you cannot protect :
- Contents (ideas, concept)
- Laws, official documents
- Decisions of authority
- Means of payment
- Patent specifications
The protection is 70 years after the death of the author, and 50 for software
Now that you know more about the various legal protections for your inventions, all that remains is for you to innovate! think2make will help you achieve this goal by offering you a unique methodology adapted to your needs.
Discover also the book Patents and design in the Coworking Neuchâtel library.
Would you like further support for your intellectual property strategy? Discover our partner P&TS.