What is a patent?

A patent gives you the right to prevent others from using your invention, such as manufacturing, selling, or importing your product for commercial purposes.

Patents are granted for a limited period of time, in Finland for a maximum of 20 years. If your invention relates to a medicinal product or plant protection product, it’s possible to extend the patent term if certain requirements are met.

You can apply for a patent by filing a written application with a national Patent Office, which in Finland is the Finnish Patent and Registration Office. The length of the application process varies by country. In Finland it takes from 2 to 2.5 years to obtain a patent.

If you want to apply for a patent in more than one country, consider the market area of your product as well as the patenting costs in each country when you plan your application strategy. To apply for a patent in European countries, you can file a European patent application. If you’re aiming for the global market instead, you can start the application process through the international patent system (PCT). Our experts will help you find the most cost-efficient patenting strategy for your needs.

An invention that can be protected with a patent must be new, involve an inventive step and be susceptible of industrial application. Consult one of our experienced professionals to assess whether your invention meets the requirements for patenting.

Finnish patent and other national patents

In Finland, patents are granted by the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH). If you file a Finnish patent application, your patent will only be valid in Finland, and your exclusive right to use your invention commercially will also be only valid in Finland. If you want to enjoy the rights to your product or service in other countries as well, you’ll have to apply for a patent separately in all of those countries.

To have a national patent in any country, you have to file an application with a national patent office. The officials in different countries apply their own national legislation, which means that the scope of protection of patents based on the same applications may vary in different countries.

You don’t have to file all these applications at the same time. You’ll have one year (called a priority year) from the filing date of your first Finnish patent application to file foreign applications. Another option is to make use of the PCT system (read more below).

European patent

By filing a European patent (EP) application you can have your patent validated in countries that have joined the European Patent Convention (EPC). There are 38 countries that have signed the convention. There are also cooperation agreements with non-contracting states: two countries having an extension agreement and two having a validation agreement. This makes in fact 42 countries where you can have a patent by filing an EP application (in 2016).

EP applications are examined and granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) headquartered in Munich.

Following the granting of your patent by the EPO, you still have to register it individually in EPC member and extension or validation states. You can choose the countries in which you want to register your patent, and it will only be valid in these countries. Registered European patents become national patents, and therefore must be maintained and kept in force separately in each of the countries where you operate.

By filing a European patent application, you can have the same scope of protection in several European countries with a single application. Gaining the same extent of protection through directly filed national applications requires more effort and is in most cases more expensive if you’re aiming for protection in at least four European countries.

We have several European patent attorneys who have passed the demanding European qualifying examination organized by the European Patent Office.

PCT system

The international PCT system is a system for filing patent applications. An application filed through the PCT system does not give you a patent or protection for your invention. You file the application with a Receiving Office (for example in Finland), and an International Searching Authority will examine your application. After the international phase has been completed, you can apply for a patent to national or regional Patent Offices. The purpose of the international PCT application is not to grant you an international patent, or “world patent”, but to give you a non-binding report assessing whether your invention could be patentable. By using the system, you’ll have more time to decide in which countries you eventually want to have a patent in force.

The PCT system gives you the advantage that before filing any national applications, you can have the novelty, inventive step, and industrial applicability of your invention assessed. Also, by using the system you can delay your decisions about the geographical scope of your patent, as well as the application costs, up to 30 or 31 months from your priority date. This will give you more time to plan the scope of protection you want to have for your patent. Just remember that each national or regional Patent Office with which you file your PCT application within 30 or 31 months will independently decide whether they’ll grant you the patent, and in which form.

The system is based on the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) that came into force in 1978. The bureau responsible for running the system is the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) headquartered in Geneva. There are currently 151 PCT-contracting countries (in 2016).

Unitary patent

Germany has on 17 February 2023 ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC), confirming that the long-awaited unitary patent system will start on 1 June 2023.

The new system allows inventions to be protected by a single unitary patent in 17 EU countries. Currently, the countries participating in the unitary patent system include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Before the UPC can start operating, there will be a ‘sunrise period’ beginning on 1 March 2023. During the sunrise period, European patent holders will have the possibility of filing an opt-out request for their existing European patents which have been validated in one or more of the UPC member states.

Opting out during the sunrise period is important for those patent holders wanting to avoid the centralized jurisdiction of the UPC, which will apply to all validations of a European patent in the UPC member states. If an opt-out request is filed by the patent holder, all litigation concerning the opted-out European patent will take place only in national courts of law according to the traditional European practice.

Learn about patents in Russia, Eurasia and CIS countries here.

Contact our experts

Director (Patent Department), European Patent Attorney
Patent Attorney