Patent Registration in Malta
If you are a proprietor of an invention and you wish to benefit from that creativity, a patent gives you the right to prevent others from copying your invention. If anybody infringes your patent you are then at liberty to take legal action and seek damages. The registration and protection of patents on a national level in Malta is regulated by the Patents Act. This Act is based on European guidelines and has updated the previous legislation which regulated this field. The salient features of this Act are as follows:
Patentability of an Invention
An invention is patentable under Maltese law if it is novel, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable. These requirements for the patentability of an invention can be summarized as follows:
An invention is considered novel if it does not form part of the prior art (i.e. before filing, or when priority of the patent is claimed, such art was available to the public in a written or other graphic form, by an oral description, by use or in any other way, anywhere in the world). However, the definition of the term novel does not exclude the patentability of any substance or composition, comprised in the prior art for use in a method for the treatment of the human or animal body, by human surgery or therapy, provided that the use of such method is not comprised in the prior art itself.
An Inventive Step
An invention shall be considered to involve an inventive step if, having regard to the prior art, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art.
An invention is considered to be industrially applicable if it can be made or used in any kind of industry. The term industry is understood in its broadest sense and includes handicraft, agriculture and fishery.
What may not be patented?
The law provides that the following cannot be patented:
- Discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
- Aesthetic creations;
- Schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business and programs for computers;
- Presentation of information;
- A method for the treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy and a diagnostic method practised on the human or animal body; however this does not apply to products, in particular substances or compositions, for use in any of these methods;
- An invention, the exploitation of which would be contrary to public order or morality.
The Effects of Patents under the Maltese Patents Act
Where the patent concerns a product, the owner of the patent has the right to prevent third parties from performing the following acts without his authorization:
- The making of a product that incorporates the subject matter of the patent;
- The offering or placing on the market of a product that incorporates the subject matter of a patent, the use of such product, or the importation or stocking of such product for such offering or placing on the market or for such use;
- The inducing of third parties to perform any of the above acts;
Where the patent concerns a process, the owner of the patent has the right to prevent third parties from performing the following acts without his authorisation:
- The use of a process that is the subject matter of the patent;
- With regard to any product obtained by the use of the patented process, the offering or placing on the market of a product that incorporates the subject matter of a patent, the use of such product, or the importation or stocking of such product for such offering or placing on the market or for such use, even where a patent cannot actually be obtained for the product;
- The inducing of third parties to perform any of the above acts.
Patent Protection Term under the Patents Act
The term of a patent shall be 20 years from the date of filing of the application. 20 years is the norm in most countries. The maintenance of a patent is subject to a maintenance fee, which is due after the third year and each year subsequently.
Registration of a European Patent
A company with a carefully considered, effective intellectual property strategy will have a major sustainable advantage over its competitors. Patenting is advisable in any country where an invention can be expected to yield significant economic benefits. It is important to note that having registered a patent with the European Patent Office (EPO), one would still have to validate the patent with each country where one wished to obtain protection by means of a validation letter.
Advantages of Registering a Patent with the European Patent Office
- A cost-effective and time-saving way to obtain sound protection in a range of European countries;
- Every European patent undergoes a substantive examination and can be obtained for countries which otherwise operate only a registration system.
Intellectual property strategies vary greatly between industries and individual companies. An effective strategy will generally combine intellectual property rights with less formal arrangements such as agreements to preserve confidentiality. Various forms of protection can be chosen as needed to establish or reinforce a market position. To explore all the available options, it is best to seek professional advice.