Industrial Property course - How can we protect science?

You already know by now that we are very interested in learning more about the translation of science into the market!

As a side activity, we decided to take an official Industrial Property course!

The course lasted for 4 days and took place at the Instituto Nacional de Propriedade Industrial (INPI) - the official Portuguese Institute of industrial property ( grants the right for patents, brands, logos, and industrial designs. 

L. (left) and R. (right) inside the building where we had the classes.
In each day, we had a different teacher and for our big surprise the teachers were not only attorneys, one of the teachers was an environmental engineer, and this was a pleasant surprise because it was the first clue we had that there was a place for scientists in the intellectual property world.

So what have we learned? It is impossible to explain all we learned since it is a very complex issue, so we strongly advise anyone who is interest on taking a similar course, but as always we can brief you the essentials:

1. There are 3 registrations that you can make in order to protect your idea: 

- Patent: submitting a patent can protect your invention and is probably the most important industrial property submission for scientists. A patent is a document which comprises two very important sections: the description and the claims. Through these sections, the patent agent who writes the patent needs to be careful to guarantee that the invention is safe in all corners, that similar products which may arise after the submission will be infringing the patent and that the same patent is not surpassing other patents of other inventions. 

- Brands and logos: a brand can be only a name and a mixing of names and designs. Colors and shapes are of utmost importance in a brand submission. Brands are not the most important industrial property submission but it's also necessary before the product release to the market. If your invention a new device or drug, your first worry should be the patent submission but late on, eventually, a name and a design will need to be registered to protect the market of your product!

- Industrial design: although not that obvious, but industrial design is a very interesting way of protecting your scientific design! Imagine that you invented a drug-release device but the drug is already patented...why not protecting the device design?! ;)

2. The protection may not be forever...

This is a very important issue since it may influence your go-to-market strategy. A patent secures your product for 20 years and after that year (since everyone knows about your technology because the patent is a public disclosure) ANYONE CAN commercialize your product with your invention. 
On the other hand, a brand is long as you pay the renewals and do not let it expire...
At last, an industrial design will last for 25 years as long as you renew the submission every 5 years!

3. You need to police your rights!
R. (left) and L. (right) in front of INPI's building.

Also, a thing that really surprises us... at least in Portugal for Portuguese universities having a national protection of any kind (patent, brands and logos and designs) IT'S FREE! And there are great discounts on European and international protection, too! So, there's no excuse for not protecting your work! As young scientists, we definitely change the paradigm and make our inventions worth! Be aware, if you don't protect your work:

Anyone can copy it and it's almost impossible to get investment and transform your invention in a real thing with impact on the world!