Patenting in Europe: How to avoid pitfalls

Interview with Anna Kajzar, Patent examiner in Medical and consumer technology, European Patent Office


Patenting is an integral part in every technology-driven industry since its protects ideas and enables inventors to create a business around them. But not every inventor or researcher necessarily is a man or woman of business, too. They need help by someone to deal with legal questions to patent and to protect their ideas. The European Patent Office (EPO) can help them.

Image: Anna Kajzar; Copyright: beta-Web/Waart

Anna Kajzar talked at MEDICA TECH FORUM about the patenting process; ©beta-Web/Wart

At MEDICA 2016, inventors can learn more about the chances and pitfalls in the patenting process, since speakers from the EPO visit the MEDICA TECH FORUM and talk about "Patents: what innovators in medical technology need to know". We spoke with Anna Kajzar, one of the presenters, in advance.

Ms Kajzar, why are patents in medical technology special?

Anna Kajzar: The medtech sector is rich with breakthrough technology of enormous value to society and the economy. Patents are one of the best ways to publish important research developments and also to raise the investment which will bring the inventions to market for patients’ benefit

How do inventors need to prepare before filing a patent?

Kajzar: Thankfully very little! It is their patent attorney who takes on this difficult work for them to ensure that the legal scope of the rights are optimal. Inventors should focus on what they do best: inventing. But a vital part of inventing is in knowing what technology is already out there. It is also essential to not disclose the invention in any way – for example in an article in a journal or on the Internet, or by giving a lecture – before filing a patent application, since the invention would then be "public" and no longer new when any patent application is subsequently filed. Novelty for an invention is an essential criterion for patent applications in Europe.

How is EPO able to help here?

Kajzar: The EPO helps the researchers to find out what is already known in the art by providing free access to over 90 million documents from 100 countries via Espacenet, our online database. All the documents are classified according to technology type, are keyword searchable and can be instantly translated into any of over 30 languages. There is no longer any reason to waste time re-inventing the wheel.

What is, in your opinion, the biggest obstacle for inventors to receive a patent? How can they overcome it?

Kajzar: Inventions must be new, meaning not already disclosed anywhere in the world, and non-obvious, meaning not a mere combination of known features having a wholly expected result, to be patented in Europe. Applicants frequently fall foul of earlier documents in our databases which they could have found for themselves if only they had checked first. Searching in academic journals is never enough: much of the research done in industry is published only in patents. But getting a patent is not the only factor in success – inventors frequently face difficulties in raising finance, and here a strong patent application can really help to impress investors.

What will change for European inventors when/if trade agreements like TTIP/CETA become effective? Will change anything at all?

Kajzar: CETA requires no changes to the European Patent Convention or to European patent practice, as all the patent provisions were requested by the EU and will require adjustments to be made by Canada. European inventors may benefit from such adjustments if they apply for patents in Canada, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector.

As for the TTIP, it is currently in the process of being negotiated by the EU, so that until the Agreement is concluded, it is impossible to predict what it will contain and whether any adjustments will be required to European law and practice.

Why should inventors visit the MEDICA TECH FORUM and listen to EPO’s lecture?

Kajzar: Scientists and inventors will learn how patents can help their research and lead to economic success. We will be explaining the services offered by the EPO as well as why, when and how they can obtain a patent. We will explain some special "do's and don'ts" of patenting in medical and computer technologies, as well as showing how free patent information can reveal masses of surprising technical knowledge to support their own research projects.


The presentation "Patents: what innovators in medical technology need to know" takes place in the MEDICA TECH FORUM (Hall 12, Stand 12E73) at Wednesday, 16 November, 3.00-4.30 p.m. The presentation language is English.

Image: Man with glasses and beard - Timo Roth; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

The interview was conducted by Timo Roth.