Patents viewed as potent tools for innovation in business
As so-called Intellectual Property (IP) has become one of the more important parts of many innovative businesses, Thailand recently signed up to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system. The government and business recognized the importance of at least having some kind of international instrument to complement its internal Thai Patent Act.
Despite the move to become a signatory it is important for business owners and inventors who are looking to register a patent to understand that the PCT only allows an application for a patent permit to be submitted to several PCT signatory countries via a single application. What this means is that Thai inventors or businesses wanting to register a patent will still be compelled to apply for patent registration in each country separately.
Granting a patent usually takes several years but once achieved is meant to give the owner exclusive rights for a pre-determined period. In Thailand, the exclusive period is 20 years from the date of filing for an invention and 10 years from the date of filing for petty patent or design patent.
The main benefit for a business which has been granted a patent is to give the company the opportunity to benefit financially from the monopoly situation provided by the patent.
Naturally, the only way a patent can function effectively is if there is proper enforcement to prevent competitors and others from infringing that patent.
One of the bigger questions arises over the ownership of a patented invention when that creation has been produced by an employee of a company during working hours.
There are business owners who will view anything created by an employee as simply theirs for the taking and exploiting because the patent product was invented while the employee was being paid to work for them.
A sensible company will realize the long-term benefits of creating a suitable workplace environment which encourages employee innovation. Even the Thai Patent Act recognizes the potential for conflict which can arise between employer and employee over the financial disbursements accruing from profiting from a patent.
Section 11 of the Act notes: ‘The right to apply for a patent for an invention made in the execution of an employment contract…shall belong to the employer…unless otherwise provided in the contract.’
The Thai Patent Act, in Section 12, understands a legislative need to also reward employee inventors. ‘In order to promote inventive activities and give a fair share to the employee, the employee-inventor shall have the right to remuneration other than his regular salary if the employer benefits from the invention.’
Properly planned and executed, patents can be an important tool in driving some businesses forward.