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Alternatives to patenting

Secrecy and publication

You should carefully consider how you can best protect your invention.

If you decide to apply for patent protection, you need to take into consideration the costs. Bear in mind that you have to enforce your patent yourself and that your invention will become known in detail. Also, not every invention needs to be patented. In sectors with very short product cycles, for example, it is not always necessary because by the time the patent will have been granted, new product generations will be coming onto the market.

  

Consider the following alternatives:

  • Secrecy: This is mainly worth considering if the invention is not directly obvious from the finished product. While a patented invention can be freely used by everyone once the patent has expired, keeping it a secret can protect it indefinitely. But a word of caution: others can discover the technical solution and then use it themselves – and even patent it.
  • Defensive publication: What if you don't want a patent, but you don't want others to be able to patent the invention either? Then it helps to publish the invention. For example, you can publish it on a publishing platform or you can write an article about it in a journal. It then belongs to the state of the art, which means that it is known and therefore can't be patented. You can continue to use your invention – but so, too, can your competitors.

 

Platforms where you defensively publish your innovations:

  

Copyright isn't an alternative

Copyright isn’t a replacement for patent protection. Copyright protects the format, i.e. the expression of a work and not its content.
Software, however, is protected under copyright law (and not under patent law) because a computer program is not a technical solution per se. However, computer-implemented inventions that solve a technical problem – such as the control of a vehicle's anti-lock braking system – can be patented.

  

Protection against unfair competition

Even without an IP right, you are not completely defenceless against counterfeiters. If competitors act unfairly and illegally, for example counterfeit copies of your products that mislead customers, you can take action based on the Federal Act on Unfair Competition (UCA).