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It would make sense that not all patents require the same duration of protection. Certain areas of technology may only be useful for short periods of time and the applicant may only be interested in paying for an appropriate protective term. On the other hand, other areas of technology may take a long time to arrive to market and therefore it could be argued that these technologies deserve protective extensions of term (we’ll get to these later). “Short Term Patents” is a catchall term within this post to refer to any by-design non-regular term patent (i.e. not ~20 years).
There are several different kinds of “short-term patents.” Often times these are under the category of “utility models”, although for example, the Irish Patent Office refers to them as “short-term” patents. Other patent offices that offer abbreviated/short-term/utility protection as an alternative to “regular” (usually around 20 year) patents include Japan and Germany (both countries have a strong tradition in this type of patent) as well as a number of other countries such as Ireland, Australia, France, and Taiwan. The general rule in such countries is that the applicant must choose to either pursue a utility model or a patent, per invention, but not cannot receive both.
Coverage for these kinds of patents has not always been strong, but now most major commercial patent search systems offer some level of coverage. Of note, PatBase has explicit coverage to most, if not all, forms of utility patents as well as short term patents and short term patent applications from Ireland. The Questel family of search systems, Thomson Innovation, MicroPatent PatentWeb, and others are known to have utility model coverage, at least.
On the other hand, Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs) are specific legal documents issued in the European Union to grant additional patent term length for medicinal patents–somewhat analogous to patent term extensions given by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. To learn more about SPCs, see the UK’s Patent Office primer (PDF), a history at Who’s Who Legal, and the very excellent SPC Blog which features a compact resource of related legal decisions and laws.
SPC coverage is available, since such data is part of INPADOC (the bibliographic database that most, if not all, commercial patent search systems employ). Again, PatBase help files explicitly detail some coverage for Supplementary Protection Certificates as well as applications for said certificates, but systems (such as the Questel family of search systems, which explicitly feature French SPCs—known as CCPs) may have comparable, although undisclosed, coverage.
Hopefully this was a helpful intro to “short term patents;” we hope to delve further into this topic at a later date. What do you think about the usefulness of these types of patent protection? Are you interested to find out further details of search system coverage in this area?
This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla.