Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
In Austria inventions, company labels and industrial designs can be protected by Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) like patents, utility models, trademarks and registered designs. The Austrian Patent Office is the national Centre of Excellence which provides the protection for inventions needed for safeguarding the interests of scientists.
Copyrights – the protection of creative and technological expression (e.g. books, plays, music or soft-ware, building designs and instruction manuals) – need no special registration; they are generated by the creation of the opus itself. The copyright belongs solely to the creator and generally lasts for 70 years after the creator’s death.
Protection of Inventions/Company Labels/Designs in Austria
- Patent or Utility Model
There are two possibilities to protect technical inventions: a patent or a utility model. They both give the right for a limited period of time to exclude others from possessing, importing, producing, using or selling the invention without permission. The right can be sold or transferred by licence. Patents and utility models are territorial rights and therefore limited to the countries for which the protection is granted and limited to a maximum of 20 years for patents and six to ten years for utility models. A technical invention is patentable if it is novel, contains an inventive step and if it is capable of industrial application. In contrast to a patent a utility model involves testing for novelty as well but none for the inventive process or commercial applicability. The protection through utility models is normally granted more quickly than a patent but it also confers weaker protection and is only applicable in certain countries.
Topographies – three-dimensional structures of micro-electronic semiconductor products – can also be protected and the right will be entered in the semiconductor register.
A company label can be protected by a trademark – an independent property right which allows distinguishing goods and services of different companies from one another. Trademarks can be protected for ten years but this period may be extended indefinitely by paying the fee every ten years.
Community Trade Marks and designs can be registered with the OHIM, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, the official trademarks and designs registration office of the European Union. The Community Trade Mark (CTM) and the Registered Community Design (RCD) are prerequisites for commercialisation in the European Single Market.
- Industrial Design
By registration of an industrial design, the appearance of a commercial product is protected (e.g. the shape of a mineral water bottle).The protection is valid for five years and can be extended four times up to a maximum of 25 years.
serv.ip ("Service of Industrial property") at the Austrian Patent Office is a service centre which employs specialists in commercial legal protection.
For information regarding universities and inventions please see the website of the Regional Knowledge Transfer Centers (Wissenstransferzentren) of Austrian universities.
IPR Issues at Application Stage
Different organisations have different ways of dealing with IPR issues. As there might be sensitive information that has to be given to the partners before submitting a proposal which should be protected or if the partners want to make sure that all partners are in line with the conditions and really join the project if it is approved a contract or an agreement should be signed beforehand. This could be a Letter of Intent (LoI), a Confidentiality Agreement (CA)/Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) or a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Model agreements might be available at your organisation/university. Links to such models can also be found at a dedicated section within the IPR Helpdesk.
Standard sample contracts for technology transfer have been made available free of charge online to enable Austrian universities and their contractual partners to avail themselves of comprehensive contract expertise complete with commentaries. The contracts can be found at www.ipag.at.
European Patent Office: www.epo.org
Espacenet (world-wide patent search): www.epo.org/searching/free/espacenet.html
IPAG – Intellectual Property Agreement Guide: www.ipag.at
IPR Helpdesk: www.iprhelpdesk.eu
Regional Knowledge Transfer Centers (Wissenstransferzentren): www.wtz.ac.at
Office for Harmonization inthe Internal Market: http://oami.europa.eu
World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO): www.wipo.int