Risks in the patent system

There are certain risks in the patent system that you should be aware of before you decide to send in a patent application.

In order for your invention to be patented, it must be new. This is an absolute requirement. If something that matches your invention has been made public anywhere in the world by the date you sent in your application, you cannot be granted a sole right to your invention.

How we examine your application

When we examine your application, most of our work concerns looking for technology that is similar to yours, and assessing if what we find is too similar to your invention in order for you to be granted a patent.

We use a number of databases and search tools in our work. We are knowledgeable about the patent documentation classification system, we use machine translation to search in Asian documents, we constantly conduct continuing training in both technology and searching, and we work hard with quality measurements. The Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV) maintains a recognised high level of quality, both in terms of novelty examinations and assessments of patent applications. But sometimes this is not enough and in exceptional cases, it happens that a patent is granted on incorrect grounds. Unfortunately, this is a part of the risk the applicant must take in a patent application. Accordingly, the sole right is not unconditional and absolute, but rather can always be called into question.

No guarantee against opposition

The patent system is adapted so that the public will be able to make a statement on both an application for a patent and a granted patent. In order to minimise the risk that PRV makes an incorrect decision, there is an opposition period that runs for nine months from when the patent is granted. During that time, the public can oppose our decision free of charge. PRV's decision can then be appealed to the Patent and Market Court and then on to the Patent and Market Court of Appeal. The Patent and Market Court of Appeal examines the matter if you are granted a leave to appeal. The Patent and Market Court of Appeal then determines if you are to be given the possibility of appealing to the Supreme Court. In order for the Supreme Court to take up the matter, leave to appeal is also required, however.

Even if nobody opposed the patent, anyone can file action for annulment in court against it. This can take place at any time during the life of the patent.

Why no guarantee?

The patent system means that the world’s patent authorities should essentially keep track of everything that has been published everywhere in the world through all time. Our search tools are indeed very powerful, but the novelty examination of a patent application is also very complex. The patent engineer that examines the matter must make many delimitations and strategic choices in his or her examination to gradually filter out the documents that are most relevant to assess the invention’s patentability. The possibility of finding the particular document that potentially reveals the invention is dependent on, for example:

  • how large the search volume is
  • how well a patent document is arranged in relevant technical classes
  • how well the content in a document is reflected via relevant search words
  • the extent to which the worldwide databases used for the examination are updated
  • that the document is written in a language that the examiner has knowledge of or where good machine translations are available.

About the possibility of damages

If you believe that PRV as an authority has caused damage by making mistakes or being negligent in the processing of your application, you can turn to the Chancellor of Justice to have your claim for damages examined. Accordingly, PRV does not examine if you are entitled to damages or not.