Secrecy and confidentiality

Transparency and openness are important principles that enable society to have trust in public administration. This is important both for the legal certainty of the individual and to enable democratic control of the exercise of authority by public administration. There are nevertheless some exceptions to this that provide the right to secrecy at the Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO).

Patent application

An application for a patent does not become publicly available until 18 months after the day on which the application is submitted to the Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO). In the case of international patent applications entering the national phase in Norway, the application becomes publicly available after 18 months from the priority date. More detailed information further down the page.

Design application

In a design application, bibliographic information and documents that do not reveal the appearance of the design are already publicly available from the date of application. Documents that can reveal the appearance of the design, on the other hand, can be kept secret for up to six months from the date of application or priority date. More detailed information further down the page.

Trademark application

An application for trademark registration is publicly available from the date on which the application is submitted to the Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO). This means that anyone can see that an application has been made for registration of a trademark, including the reproduction of the actual trademark, information about who the applicant is and for what goods and services registration has been sought. More detailed information further down the page.

Preliminary searches

All preliminary searches are carried out under a statutory duty of confidentiality. If you order a preliminary search, you are, in other words, assured that the process will remain completely confidential. More detailed information about preliminary searches.

General

The Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO) must maintain confidentiality regarding applications and documents in cases that are not publicly available. You can also request that information about business secrets be excluded from public access under particular rules, and confidentiality will apply if the Norwegian Industrial Property Office comes to the conclusion that this information can be excluded.

Access to NIPO case documents

You can obtain access to the NIPO's case documents by searching in our Search Service. You can also contact the NIPO directly.

Verbal communication with the NIPO

Occasionally you will have verbal contact with the NIPO, for example a phone call or a meeting with us. The NIPO must maintain confidentiality regarding business secrets or private matters we become acquainted with when we are in contact with you.

Please note that the NIPO is obliged to record information of importance that we receive verbally in connection with case processing in specific applications. Whether such information is secret or not depends on what kind of information it is and whether the application to which the information relates is publicly available or not.

Information on personal circumstances

The NIPO will maintain confidentiality regarding information concerning someone's personal circumstances, such as an individuals' physical and mental health, character and emotional life, religious or political views, financial circumstances, etc. Such information will of course not be available in the NIPO Search Service.

NIPO's internal working documents

The Norwegian Industrial Property Office's internal working documents in specific cases are, in principle, not publicly available. On the other hand, if there is no real and objective need to refuse access, it will be possible to have access to such internal documents in accordance with the principle of greater transparency in Section 11 of the Freedom of Information Act.

What should you think about before filing applications and sending letters to the NIPO?

  • The fact that an application for trademark protection has been filed cannot be kept secret. It is also not possible to request that the reproduction of the trademark, information about who is the applicant or for which goods or services an application for registration applies, be kept secret.
  • In a design application, the appearance of the design can be kept secret for up to six months, but biographical information is publicly available from the date of application.
  • It is important that a request for exclusion from public access for information concerning business secrets is clearly formulated, preferably in the introduction to the letter. It is not sufficient to simply mark the documents as "secret", "confidential" or similar. Exclusion from public access must be explicitly requested in connection with the case concerned.
  • Relevant information concerning the attainment and scope of design rights cannot be excluded from public access. The same applies to trademark rights. In practice, the threshold for excluding information necessary for the assessment of design and trademark applications from public access, is high.
  • You should avoid submitting sensitive personal information or information concerning business secrets that are not relevant to the case. If appropriate, you can censor such information before you submit the documents to the NIPO. This will reduce additional work both for the NIPO and for the sender of the document.
  • Anyone can ask the NIPO for access to publicly available cases. Most of the documents in these cases are also available in the NIPO Search Service.
  • If you are considering applying for both patent and design protection, you must remember that the requirement for novelty is different for patents and designs. An absolute requirement of novelty applies to patents. The novelty requirement is moderated for designs, so that a design may have been displayed publicly for up to 12 months before an application is filed.
  • A publicly available design application may hinder the granting of a patent. This means that the patent application must be filed while the product is still being kept secret. A design application, however, must be filed no later than 12 months after the patent application has become publicly available.
  • An application for a trademark that shows a design or a patent amounts to the same as publishing the design or patent. It may therefore be wise to file your patent and/or design application before you apply for a trademark.

More detailed information about patent, trademark and design applications

Application for patent

Your patent application and correspondence in the case will be publicly available 18 months after the application was filed, possibly earlier if you so request. In the case of international patent applications entering the national phase in Norway, the application becomes publicly available from 18 months after the priority date.

If you withdraw the application before it becomes publicly available it will not be published, in other words it will remain secret. If there are special reasons for doing so, you can also request that specific business secrets not be made public.

For patent applications concerning inventions of importance to defence, there are also special rules on secrecy. Special rules apply to filing, processing and communication in these applications. Read more about inventions of importance to defence.

Trademark application and specific information about business secrets

The application for trademark registration and all documents in the case are publicly available from the date on which the application is filed at the NIPO.

Some information concerning business secrets may, however, be excluded from public access under the rules set out in the second paragraph of Section 25 of the Trademarks Act. This rule grants the NIPO discretionary right to exclude information concerning business secrets from public access, but the we are under no obligation to do so. You must therefore ask for information concerning business secrets to be exempted from public access. The NIPO does not assess this on its own initiative.

If you wish the NIPO to keep particular information secret in the case, you must alert us at the same time as submitting the documents. In addition, you must highlight clearly what information in the document you wish to be excluded. We will then make an assessment of whether the information can be excluded from public access or not.

The information will be excluded until the request is finally decided. You may appeal against rejection of your request to the Norwegian Board of Appeal for Industrial Property Rights. Final rejection of your request will mean that the information concerned is published.

It is important to note that it is not what you yourself consider to be business secrets that counts. Not all information is deemed to be business secrets within the meaning of the law. Information that is relevant when assessing whether a mark can be registered or the scope of the protection cannot be excluded from public access. Everyone must have access to this information in order to ensure that existing rights are not infringed. Access to such information may be necessary to be able to assess claims of invalidity or for deletion. In practice, the threshold for excluding information and documentation in a trademark application, from public access, is high.

The fact that an application for registration of a trademark has been filed, for example, cannot be kept secret. Nor may it be required that the reproduction of the trademark, information about who is the applicant or for which goods or services an application for registration has been made be kept secret. Neither may a claim of priority be excluded from public access. Documentary evidence of establishment by use which is submitted to substantiate registrability of a trademark, for example information on sales figures, as a general rule cannot excluded from public access either.

Examples of business secrets that can be exempted:

  • Declarations of consent with reference to a cooperation agreement on a planned sales campaign
  • Documentary evidence of establishment by use containing information that divulges details of the applicant's marketing strategy.
  • Customer lists and mailing lists may also be excluded depending on the circumstances.
  • Other information about business secrets that is not relevant to the assessment of the case can normally also be excluded.

If the request for secrecy is evidently unfounded, the information can simply be given to the person requesting access in the case.

The information here concerning exclusion from public access for information concerning business secrets in applications for trademarks also applies in objection cases and administrative review.

Application for design

Documents showing the appearance of the design (images of the design) are automatically kept secret for up to six months, unless the applicant asks for the whole application to be publicly available at the time of filing. Documents showing the appearance of the design will also be generally available when the design is registered, even if this happens within the first six months after the application has been filed. On the other hand, it is possible to defer registration for up to six months from the date of application or the priority date, or to specify a particular date within this period of time. If registration has not taken place within six months counting from the date of application or the priority date, the application will automatically become publicly available.

It is important to be aware that although the appearance of the design can be kept secret for up to six months, bibliographical information is already publicly available from the date of application. This applies, for example, to information about the applicant and the designer's name and address, as well as the type of product. Only documents that can reveal the appearance of the design are kept secret.

Information concerning business secrets can be excluded from public access if the applicant so requests. You must give notice of this at the same time as submitting the documents. Whether the documents can be kept secret is determined in accordance with the fourth paragraph of Section 21 of the Designs Act.

Questions?

Contact our Customer Service Centre, tel +47 22 38 73 00.

Thank you for your feedback! If you need an answer, call +47 22 38 73 00 and talk to our Customer Service Centre.
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