Inventing Problems

I’ve come up with a great invention (no details, of course!) and I want to patent it. How do I apply for a patent?

You can apply for a patent in two ways: either through an attorney who is registered with the Czech Chamber of Patent Attorneys (their English-language website at contains a complete list of all attorneys authorized to act in this area) or by applying yourself under the “inventor-applicant” system. As an inventor-applicant with a “seat” in the Czech Republic (a valid residence visa is enough for this), you can submit your application to the Industrial Property Office in Prague. Their website at contains lots of English-language information about the office itself, although the patent application form and the guidelines for completing it are only available in Czech. Roughly one patent in every nine issued in the Czech Republic was applied for under the inventor-applicant system; but given the complexities of application language and the lengthy lists of requirements for a successful application, most people choose to hire an attorney to do the paperwork.

Broadly speaking, you can be granted a patent for any invention which (a) is new, (b) involves an “inventive step” and (c) is “susceptible to industrial application.” To be considered “new” your invention must be something that does not form part of the “state of the art,” i.e. the body of information on the topic currently available to the public. To involve an “inventive step,” your invention must contain something which is not obvious to a person skilled in the area in question. To be “susceptible to industrial application,” your invention must be useful in some way to industry, agriculture or another area of the economy.

In the Czech Republic it usually takes about 5 years to have a patent granted, but once you have submitted your application you are treated as having the “priority right” to the patent. This means that, despite the fact that you haven’t yet actually been granted a patent, because your application is in process no one else is permitted to steal your idea and make money from it.

I write and produce training materials for businesses. I want the names of some of my products to be recognised as trademarks. Can I just write ‘TM’ or ‘(r)’ after the product name, or do I have to officially register it somewhere?

The letters TM (Trade Mark), like the copyright symbol (c), can be used freely and without any official registration. Anyone offering goods or services may use these symbols to indicate the origin of their product. However, if you wish to have a registered trademark (®) the situation is somewhat different. The (®) symbol denotes a nationally-registered trademark, and can only be used in connection with goods or services which have been granted trademark registration by the Industrial Property Office, as per Trade Mark Law No. 137/1995 Coll.L. There are much stronger restrictions on which goods and services are eligible for this kind of trademark. Particularly, only goods or services that have already been used in interstate commerce will be considered for registration, so if you only trade in the Czech Republic, forget it. If, on the other hand, you are selling your goods or services internationally, you may wish to consider the added security of a registered trademark.

As with patents, registered trademarks can be applied for at the Industrial Property Office in Prague. The application form is available to print out at

Vilém Daněk is at [email protected] Klara Vesela-Samkova will be back next issue. Send your questions to [email protected], all personal details will be treated with the strictest confidence. Legal is edited by Craig Duncan.

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