Two ways to apply for patent protection in Norway:
- File a patent application to the Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO), either directly or under the international PCT application system. Most Norwegian applicants file their applications directly to NIPO, while foreign applicants usually use the PCT system.
- File a patent application to the European Patent Office (EPO). The European patent can later be made applicable in Norway (validated). It is mainly foreign applicants who use this scheme.
The total number of patent rights in Norway consists of a combination of these. A patent can be maintained for up to 20 years from the day you file the application, provided you pay the annual fees. The average lifetime for a Norwegian patent is now a little under 15 years.
Patents: figures for period 2014-2017
|Patent applications total||1564||1805||2062||2062|
|- direct to NIPO from Norwegian applicants||1052||1120||1195||1107|
|- direct to NIPO from foreign applicants||95||129||121||136|
|- international applications to Norway via PCT Norwegian applicants||55||31||38||53|
|- international applications to Norway via PCT from foreign applicants||362||525||708||766|
|Percentage patent applications from Norwegian applicants||71%||64%||60%||56%|
|Decisions in patent applications||3610||3651||4585||4073|
|- granted patents||1433||1449||2526||2148|
|- finally shelved or withdrawn||2156||2183||2043||1911|
|Validated European patents i Norway||2604||3340||4495||5796|
|Total number of patents in effect (Norwegian patents and European patents validated in Norway)||21218||23350||27657||31571|
The proportion of patent applications from Norwegian applicants is slightly lower than in the previous year, 56%.
As expected, there has been an increasing number of European patents made applicable (validated) in Norwegian following accession to the European Patent Convention (EPC) in 2008. Growth has been greater than expected, primarily due to a steady rise in the number of patents granted by the European Patent Office (EPO). A European patent is normally validated in Norway three months after EPO approval. We expect a continued increase in the number of validated European patents in Norway.
Patent applications decided
Around 53% of patent applications decided in 2017 led to patents. This proportion has increased in recent years. A small number of applications are rejected, mainly because the invention for which a patent is sought is not new.
Most patent applications that do not lead to patents are shelved because the applicant does not reply to our letters, pay the fees, or because the applicant withdraws the application. Such shelving is often the result of NIPO having found that the invention is not patentable.
NIPO decided slightly fewer patent applications in 2017 than in 2016, but more than in a normal year. The number of applications in processing was therefore reduced by 19% during the course of the year.
Processing time for patents
Case processing time for patent applications is, for several reasons, longer than for trademarks and designs. It is important for applicants filing a first application to obtain a quick indication of whether the invention is patentable. This is due to the need to meet deadlines for filing equivalent applications in other countries with priority from the first application.
We give an initial assessment within 7 months in at least 95% of all first applications, and this is the fastest among the Nordic countries, although nevertheless not as fast as at the EPO. NIPO on average took 20.4 months to process a first application, that it is to say from the time when the application was received until it was granted. This is a decrease of around 3 months from 2016, and NIPO's processing time is shorter than the EPO's.
International patent applications (PCT) entering the national phase in Norway and applications previously filed in other countries have already been examined, and the applicant therefore does not have the same need for fast processing at NIPO.
We decided an average of 70 patent applications per full-time equivalent employee in 2017. This means the applications were granted as patents, rejected, finally shelved or withdrawn by the applicant. 2016 was an exceptional year in which we finished the processing of a large number of applications by simplified (fast-track) processing in order to reduce the backlog of patent applications. Fewer such cases were available in 2017, and the workload per case therefore increased. This situation will also occur in 2018.
First applications filed at NIPO
Of the 2,062 patent applications filed at NIPO in 2017, 1,354 were first applications, that is to say applications in which the invention is mentioned for the first time. In these cases the invention does not have priority from a previous application. 1,035 of first applications came from Norwegian applicants and 319 from foreign applicants.
Patent applications from Norwegian applicants filed as first applications to NIPO
Patent applicants often choose to file the first application for a patent (the first application) in their home country and then to apply for patents in other countries with priority from this first application. Proximity and good communication with the patent authority in their own country are often the reasons for this choice. The proportion of first applications from Norwegian applicants filed at the NIPO may be an indication of how satisfied the applicants are with NIPO, and this has therefore been chosen as a supporting analysis. It is not, however, a requirement that the first application is filed in the applicant's own country, and for strategic reasons it may be appropriate for individual applicants to file the first application in other countries or at the EPO.
If patents are to be applied for in more than one country, it is common practice to use the PCT system and file an international patent application that is examined by a PCT authority, for example the Nordic Patent Institute (NPI). Applicants can then take the application into the national phase in those countries where patent protection is wanted. Normal practice is to file the application in one's own country, or alternatively in another country or at the European Patent Office (EPO), and then to file a PCT application with priority from the first application. It is also possible, however, to start the patent application process by filing a PCT application, so that this becomes the first application.
More than half of international patent applications (PCT) filed by Norwegian applicants have priority from a Norwegian application, meaning that the application was first filed at NIPO. The remainder of the international applications from Norwegian applicants had principal priority from the United States, the United Kingdom and the EPO.
The figures are based on the year in which the application was published. There has been little variation in the proportion of applications with Norwegian priority in recent years. In comparison with Sweden and Denmark, we find that Norwegian applications to a greater extent use a first application in their homeland than Swedish and Danish applicants do. This may have something to do with the degree of internationalisation, but may also reflect preferences in the professional representative sector.