Innovation and why you should protect your patent multilingually 

As we were watching the news, a month ago, still fresh in my mind the last event ASTW sponsored in London, the Global IP ConfEx, something caught my eye. The TGR, the local news on RAI channel, presented four friends from Chiavari, a town near Genoa, and their invention: a “system” to heat up a house that cost one euro a day. In troubled times like ours, pandemic and war, and bills amounts rising to the stars, these four friends came up with an idea, during a conversation at a bar. That idea turned to be an innovative solution to a problem we are all facing now, though, my first thought was: I wonder if they registered their invention, if they have got a patent to protect that heating system. 

We should not take for granted that every SME, or every inventor – individual – is getting a patent to protect their own work. Not knowing how aware people are about the issue, a quick research took me to the IP Helpdesk of the European Commission page. According to the European Intellectual Property Office, EUIPO, European Small and Medium Enterprises, i.e. SMEs, account for 99% of all companies, created 85% of new jobs in the last years, and overall two thirds of the employment in the EU.

On the other hand, according to EPO, European Patent Office, around 21% of the patent applications filed were registered by SMEs and individual inventors. Plus 5% considering universities and public research organizations, from which spun off SMEs to market new technologies. All in all, SMEs which protect their IP rights “have reported a significant improvement in their reputation, creating an image of trustworthiness, strengthening long-term business prospects and increasing turnover.” Our SMEs have an eye for tech innovation! 

Protect Your Patent, Protect Your Work

It is not difficult to understand how patenting a touchable invention can be useful and protect the hard work done to reach a result. Taking as an example the heating system of the four friends from Chiavari, they have invented a heating system, submitted it to evaluation, once agreed that the invention introduces an innovation – a solution never before proposed – it is accepted and receives a patent. Done: it is now protected by law. No one can take advantage, neither financially nor in any other way, from the invention or the work of the four friends.

But what happens when patenting an untouchable invention? Like an AI tool? My mind whirled into my past, the time I was working for an Artificial Intelligence start-up, which had created not only their own neural network, their own machine learning, also more specifically a tool to analyze images with a scope. I asked myself, once again: have they ever patented that? Have they ever considered protecting their assets, even these intangible assets, like that tool? What if anyone else copied them, could they prove that they were the real authors? It might be easier with a “thing”, but with technology… how do you protect your work?

My mind revisited again the Global IP confEx fresh memory, and the presentation about the work of Vaultinum, specialized in protection and audit of digital assets. The word “audit” rings the bell for me, for many reasons and unsuccessful stories I have heard and known. Protecting and controlling, checking that protection is working properly, is of utmost importance, in order to prevent others from getting to your core assets and misusing them.

Copyright and Copyleft     

Why should you give access to unknown people to reach the heart of your company, the fundamental work that took you a huge amount of time and effort to achieve? To understand the reason why auditing your digital IP and the protection system implemented, two concepts come in handy: copyright and copyleft. Yes, the devil is in the details.

In, we can find a comparative definition for both terms. Although the problematic lack of formality around copyright, it gives to the holder an exclusive right to make copies, license, and any other use of the original work. It means that you cannot, for instance, commercially distribute a film on DVD, if you don’t own it. About copyright of a software, it gives the holder the right to integrity of the work and the attribution, besides the right to receiving money for the software usage by others! On the other hand, copyleft is directly related to open source software. It means that the software open source is free for use and all its modified and extended versions are also free. This allows a quick improvement process and, unfortunately, the conversion into proprietary software later in the sequence chain.

The result of the open source software upgrade becomes and starts being distributed as a proprietary product. Going back to the lack of formality issue around copyright, it is difficult to prove which one came first. Interestingly, according to Boston Consulting Global, 99% of Fortune 500 companies currently use open-source software. It is not only an issue related to the proof of “who created what” and protecting their own hard work. It represents a security breach on your company’s heart, since part of the code your company uses, is known by people external to your company.

Why you Should Protect Your Patent Multilingually?

Have you ever considered the amount of problems you might have, not checking from time to time whether your assets are really protected or not? Now, consider it multiplied by as many countries as your patent is registered and in force. Beyond the patent claims and description, there are other documents as technical approvals, documents from any litigation, or licensing agreements, and so on. Any legal paper revolving around Intellectual Property might need to be translated, following each set of regulations, in each country, for each scenario.

For companies with either a big or a small international presence, IP protection is as much important as the invention itself. Otherwise, you might lose all the profit coming from your creativity, cleverness and efforts, in more than one language. So, lean on someone who’s helping you to protect yourself in different languages as well. But start by doing what the four friends from Chiavari did: their heating system is patented.

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