Scientists and tech entrepreneurs from across Russia who are anxious to protect their inventions gathered at the Skolkovo innovation centre this week for an intensive Patenting School aimed at providing participants with all the information they need to register their intellectual property (IP).
Anton Pushkov of Skolkovo's IP Centre welcomes students of the Patenting School on Wednesday. Photo: Sk.ru.
The three-day programme included talks by representatives of Russian and international patenting bodies, as well as workshops on the legal and practical aspects of registering patents in various countries.
The second day of the school on Thursday was devoted to the complexities of registering IP abroad. There are several organisations that exist to help companies apply for patents simultaneously in many countries, such as the European Patent Office (EPO), which simplifies life for innovative companies by enabling them to submit one application in a united procedure that then results in multiple national patents, saving the companies the time and effort of applying for a patent in each individual country.
The EPO received 230 European patent applications from Russia in 2015, Heli Pihlajamaa, head of the EPO’s directorate of patent law, told the Patenting School, expressing hope that that number will grow in coming years.
“The number of patent applications that we receive at the European Patent Office has increased tremendously in past years,” said Pihlajamaa, adding that the volume had been growing rapidly since the ’90s, when patents, IP and industrial property began to be seen as fully-fledged business assets.
By the end of 2016, the EPO expects to have granted about 90,000 patents: growth of about 6 percent on last year’s 68,400, she said.
The office receives more than 150,000 applications per year, and takes an average of three to four years to process each application, said Pihlajamaa. The EPO is currently implementing a programme to help reduce that time period.
Earlier this year, the EPO signed a cooperation agreement with Rospatent, under which the organisations will share information in multiple areas, including the IT used to develop their search tools.
Grigory Ivliev, director general of Rospatent, described the agreement at the time as “the most comprehensive cooperation programme that we have with any patent office.”
Together with Igor Drozdov, chairman of the board of the Skolkovo Foundation, Ivliev signed a cooperation agreement between Rospatent and Skolkovo on Wednesday.
Rospatent head Grigory Ivliev, left, and Skolkovo's Igor Drozdov sign a cooperation agreement Wednesday. Photo: Sk.ru.
Further afield, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) similarly enables companies to file a single application in one office that has legal effect in all 151 member-countries of the PCT, though patents themselves must still be granted by individual countries via a national or regional phase. The PCT – part of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – allows applicants to postpone the costs of the national or regional procedures.
Of the 218,000 applications the PCT saw in 2015, the biggest number from a single country came from the U.S., where just over 25 percent of all the applications originated, said Matthew Bryan, director of the PCT legal division.
The rest of the top five is made up by Japan, China, Germany and Korea, said Bryan. Together, those countries account for 75 percent of all applications submitted.
Russia ranked 21st for PCT use, said Bryan.
“In 2015, there were 839 PCT applications filed here in the Russian Federation – a very respectable level of use,” he said.
“Interestingly, 56 percent of those applications were filed by individuals [as opposed to companies]: that’s the highest rate in the entire world,” he added.
This, argued one audience member during the question time, is because it is much cheaper for individuals to register IP than for companies.
The cost for individuals is about $140, compared to about $1,400 for companies, said Anton Pushkov, managing partner of Skolkovo’s Intellectual Property Centre, one of the Patenting School’s key organisers.
Bryan said that WIPO had been discussing the possibility of introducing discounts for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) for five years now, but to no avail.
“We think it’s a good idea to have a discount for SMEs, but there is no agreement yet after five years of discussion. As WIPO is a UN body, all decisions must be made on consensus, so we need 151 countries to agree on the definition of an SME,” he said, adding that some countries have reduced their national patent fees for SMEs.
More than 17 percent of all Russian PCT applications are made by Skolkovo residents, according to the Skolkovo IP Centre.
In total, 1,300 patent applications have been made by Skolkovo residents since 2011 through the IP Centre, which is used by 400 of the foundation’s 1,500 resident companies.
In January this year, the Geneva-headquartered WIPO moved its Moscow office – one of just five branches around the world, and the only one in Europe – to the Skolkovo innovation centre. The Moscow office opened in 2014 in the same building as Rospatent.
In the Bloomberg Innovation Index of the world’s most innovative economies released at the beginning of 2016, Russia was ranked 15th in terms of patent activity, measured as resident patent filings per million population and per $100 billion GDP, and also as patent grants as a share of the world total. Overall, Russia ranked 12th in the rating.
Rospatent head Ivliev said at the Patenting School on Wednesday that 10 percent of the world’s patents in the field of chemistry and nine percent in the field of nuclear physics were filed by Russians.
“We’re talking about inventions that in some cases are on a 22nd-century level,” he said.