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Applying for a patent

Patentability
What are the criteria for patentability in your jurisdiction?

In order to be patentable an invention must be new, involve an inventive step and be capable of industrial application.

What are the limits on patentability?

The following are not regarded as inventions and are thus unpatentable:

  • discoveries, scientific theories or mathematical methods;
  • aesthetic creations;
  • schemes, rules or methods for performing mental acts, playing games or carrying out economic activities;
  • computer programs; and
  • presentations of information.

Patents cannot be granted in respect of inventions whose exploitation is contrary to public order or morality.

To what extent can inventions covering software be patented?

Computer programs as such are not patentable, but may be protected as literary works under the Copyright Law (59/1976), as amended. Protection is obtained automatically by creation; no registration is required or provided for.

To what extent can inventions covering business methods be patented?

Schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business are not deemed inventions and therefore cannot be patented.

To what extent can inventions relating to stem cells be patented?

The following are unpatentable:

  • processes for cloning humans;
  • processes for modifying the germ line genetic identity of humans;
  • uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes; and
  • processes for modifying the genetic identity of animals which are likely to cause them suffering without any substantial medical benefit to humans or animals, and animals resulting from such processes.

Are there restrictions on any other kinds of invention?

Inventions whose publication or exploitation would be contrary to public order or morality are not patentable. However, the exploitation of an invention will not be deemed contrary to public order or morality merely because it is prohibited by law or regulation.  

Inventions which concern plants or animals are not patentable if the technical feasibility of the invention is connected to a particular plant or animal variety, or if the invention is essentially a biological process for the production of plants or animals. This restriction is without prejudice to the patentability of inventions which concern a microbiological or other technical process or a product obtained through these processes.

According to the EU Biotechnology Directive 1998, plant and animal varieties, as well as essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals, may not be patented. However, inventions which concern plants or animals may be patentable if the technical feasibility of the invention is not confined to a particular plant or animal variety.

‘Plant variety’ is defined in the same way as in Rule 23(b)(4) of the European Patent Convention:

“any plant grouping within a single botanical taxon of the lowest known rank, which grouping, irrespective of whether the conditions for the grant of a plant variety right are fully met, can be:

  • defined by the expression of the characteristics that results from a given genotype or combination of genotypes;
  • distinguished from any plant grouping by the expression of at least one of the said characteristics;
  • considered as a unit with regard to its suitability for being propagated unchanged.”