Latest update: May 17, 2022
Intellectual property rights concern the ownership of the result of an intellectual achievement, such as inventions, trademarks, designs or text in a book. Creators, such as authors, inventors, designers or developers, can protect achievements against being stolen or used without their permission. By protecting achievements, creators obtain an exclusive right or the sole right, over an achievement for a defined time period. Intellectual property rights are one of the most internationally consistent set of laws. Swedish intellectual property law is much in line with both European and international rules.
Intellectual property rights are generally divided into two groupings - copyright and industrial property. All intellectual property rights, excluding copyright, must be applied for and registered with the relevant authorities to be protected.
For the remainder of this text, we will explain the following different types of intellectual property rights
Copyright is the right of authors over literary and artistic works, such as novels, poems, music, paintings, photographs and more. For copyright to be obtained in Sweden, the creation needs to meet a standard of originality. Copyright is the only intellectual property right that does not have to be registered, it automatically arises or occurs. While this is the case, it is common to see authors or creators attach a copyright notice to their work, for example by using the symbol © with the year the work was created. This notice does not have a legal effect but is rather a statement that the creator believe copyright exists over the work and serves as reminder that copyright exists to reduce the risk of others infringing the copyright.
Copyright grants rights to creators which are generally classified into 2 categories.
- Economic rights: the creator will have exclusive right to control the use of the achievement and to be compensated for use, such as by selling copies, licensing the achievement or making the achievement available to the public.
- Moral rights: the creator’s right to be identified as the creator and that the achievement cannot be used in a way that would negatively affect the creator’s authors reputation.
While economic rights can be transferred, such as by assigning the rights (transferring ownership of the copyright) or licensing the rights (giving someone the right to use the copyrighted achievement but not transferring ownership), moral rights are not transferrable.
How long does copyright protection last for?
Copyright protection in Sweden lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus an additional 70 years after the creator’s death.
What law governs copyright in Sweden?
Copyright in Sweden is regulated by the Act on Copyright and Literary Artistic Works, the Copyright Ordinance and the International Copyright Regulation. Sweden has also signed international agreements concerning copyright and is subject to broad EU legislation on copyright. These agreements and legislations provide mutual recognition for achievements created by the signing countries’ citizens. This means that the same rights are enjoyed by creators in the countries who have signed these agreements.
Using copyrighted works?
To be able to use a copyrighted work, you must have the right to do so, either because you created it, you have received it by assignment, or you have permission to use it via a license.
Patents protect inventions, including products and technical solutions - inclusive of methods of production. Holders of a patent have the sole right or monopoly on its use and can prevent others from using it without the patentholder’s permission. For a patent to be acquired in Sweden, the invention which is to be patented must be novel (it must be new compared to the current state of the art internationally), non-obvious (a person of average knowledge in the technical area of the patent could not figure out how to make the patented invention should they need to) and have industrial application (can be made or used in any type of industry).
How are patents registered?
Patents can be registered nationally, regionally and internationally.
- Patents can be registered and granted per country and in Sweden it is done by the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV).
- Patents can also be applied for and registered regionally and a European Patent can be applied for and granted by the European Patent Office (EPO).
- Additionally, the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) administers a system allowing the application for patent protection in more than 150 territories, again this is a bundle of national patents, all of which are governed by national law, obtained by one application through the WIPO.
What law governs patents in Sweden?
Patents are governed by the Patents Act in Sweden is also subject to international regulations on patents. When granted, patents have a life of 20 years as long as the annual fee is paid in a timely manner. Patents are known for being expensive, depending on the difficulty and complexity, annual fees, legal counsel fees, technical advisor fees and more.
A patent is an asset, it can be sold, bought or licensed. To be able to use a patent, you must own the patent, have bought the patent or have permission to use the patent through a license.
A trademark is an exclusive right or monopoly over a sign for specific goods or services for which the trademark is registered. A sign is commonly a word or logo which is capable of distinguishing offerings and telling businesses apart. We see trademarks on a daily basis, there is a trademark on our phones, our home appliances and our employer commonly trades under a trademark.
To be capable of being registered as a trademark in Sweden, a sign must meet 2 criteria - it must be distinguishable and must be capable of reproduction in the Trademark Register. A sign is distinctive if it allows products and services from one provider be distinguished from the products and services of another. Given the need for distinctiveness, a trademark cannot be descriptive of the product or service it is registered for. For example, orange is too descriptive for use in relation fruit as it could be applicable to all companies who sell oranges but could be used for clothing. If a sign is not distinctive, it cannot be registered.
How are trademarks registered?
Trademarks can be registered nationally, regionally at a European level and internationally. In this regard, trademarks are territorial - they can be enforced in the markets or territories they are registered in. Trademarks can be applied for and registered
- nationally for protection in Sweden with the PRV,
- regionally, such as at EU level at the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), in which case one would achieve an EU Trademark (EUTM). Note the EUTM covers EU countries and so Norway, the UK and Switzerland who are not EU Member States would not be covered in the protection granted.
- internationally at the World Intellectual Property Organisation. In this case, an application allows the applicant to apply to more than 100 markets for registration and protection.
When a trademark application is registered, it is registered not only for territory but also particular goods and services. This is done by designating a class to the product or service. There are 45 different classes.
What law governs trademarks in Sweden?
The Swedish Trademarks Act governs Swedish trademarks as well as EUTMs. Once filed, a trademark gives the owner the exclusive right to its use for 10 years within the territory for the products and services (the classes) it is registered. Trademark registration can be renewed an unlimited number of times. However, trademarks must be used. If a registered trademark has not been used for 5 years, its registration can be challenged. Once a trademark expires, anyone can use it within the territory for the products and services it was registered for.
In order to use a registered trademark, you need to have the right to do so. As with other intellectual property rights, trademarks can be sold and licensed. You can do a quick and free search to see if something you wish to use is registered by searching for registered trademarks in the EUIPO trademark search tool which will allow you to compare your query against many of the worlds international intellectual property offices.
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Registered designs protect the appearance, or part of the appearance, of a product. By registering a design, the holder of the design rights can prevent others from using the same design. An example of a design registered with PRV is the pant mark which informs the reader how much money can be received in return for returnable bottles. Another example is the packaging of a marabou chocolate bar. Protection is achieved against anyone copying the design which gives the creator exclusive right to use the design commercially.
Designs, as many intellectual property rights, are regulated nationally, at EU level and international level. To be capable of being registered in Sweden, designs must be (1) novel and (2) must have individual character.
A design is novel if it has not been seen by the public before it was registered. It is new.
A design is considered to have individual character if the overall impression made by the design being registered is different than the overall impression made by other designs which have been seen by the public before.
These two requirements are needed to be met, as designs can be considered identical even if there exist minor differences.
How are designs registered?
In Sweden, designs are registered with the PRV who can grant protection for designs within Sweden and at an EU level with the EUIPO.
Designs can also be registered with WIPO which allows applicants obtain a bundle of national design protections through 1 application. This is not however for all countries but for approximately 65 countries.
What law governs designs in Sweden?
Design rights in Sweden are regulated in the Design Protection Act. Designs registered with the Swedish PRV are valid for 5 years and extendable for period of 5 years up to 25 years in total.
As with other intellectual property, a design is an asset. In order to use a design, you must have permission to do so. Owners of designs, both registered and unregistered can sell their design and also give permission for its use.
Intellectual property rights are assets, valuable such, and should be considered as such. A company should seek to protect its own assets by protecting and controlling use as well as respect the intellectual property rights of others to prevent unintentional infringements. While many smaller companies don’t have the time or knowledge to manage intellectual property rights, not doing so places risk of copycats and loss of market share. If you are an organization who has not had the time to consider whether you have any intellectual property rights worth protecting, please don’t hesitate to reach out, we can help! As always, initial discussions and queries with us are free of charge.