The building with an elegant facade on the corner of Bačíková and Hlavná has been unused for some time, but it has still retained its monumentality. It reflects the importance of the institution for which it was built and which has been in Košice since 1860. We visited the former seat of the predecessor of the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) in Košice with its director Monika Kočiová.
Since its foundation, the Chamber of Commerce has been an organization that represented the interests of craftsmen, trade, or services. Even today, one of its tasks is to connect the business community, academia, public administration, scientific research, or cultural institutions. At present, the development of innovation potential is also a priority, not only in Košice but in the whole region. Where innovation happens, intellectual property undoubtedly comes into play. What does this concept cover and why is it necessary to know how to protect it?
“Under intellectual property, we can include all the results of creative activity that already have or can acquire property value. They are therefore the property of the creator, i.e. the author and we need his consent to use them,” explains Monika. The creative activity of artists (e.g., literary, musical, photographic, architectural) falls into the copyright category, so it is not necessary to formally register it. However, it is good if the author indicates to whom the created work belongs. “You can attach a copyright notice to your work, such as the text ‘All rights reserved’ or the © symbol along with the year in which you created the work.”
To patent or not to patent
Formal registration is required for inventions, products, improved designs, and designations of origin. “In our region, we find many companies that innovate, thus ensuring their competitive advantage. However, every innovation needs to be protected and ideally patented, which nowadays is a common standard abroad.” We are talking about the category of industrial property law, which falls within the competence of The Industrial Property Office of the Slovak Republic (IPO SR).
But when is it necessary to start addressing the issue of intellectual property protection? “Ideally right from the start, in the process of developing the idea. First of all, it is necessary to check which method of protection is possible or suitable for each case. The main thing is not to put it off until later. It can easily happen that someone with a similar idea will be the first to register the patent for it.”
An important stage in this process is the so-called patent research. Thanks to it, you will avoid interfering with foreign industrial rights if a similar solution has already been proposed and patented by someone before you. “It’s the only way to avoid infringing on foreign industrial property rights and litigation, which is not a cheap affair. At the same time, you will verify whether your idea is really innovative. It is also important to keep in mind that you must not share your idea with anyone until the time of application,” adds Monika. We also encountered situations where the author of innovation is an employee. “In that case, the inventors may exercise the right to the patent or utility model with their employer.”
But what to do if someone infringes on your intellectual property? In the case of authorship, the law is on your side. With industrial property, you only win if you have not neglected formal protection and have registered the property. “It is good to turn to experts from The Industrial Property Office of the Slovak Republic who will help you orient yourself in the laws. Violation of industrial property rights can lead to misdemeanor proceedings, civil court proceedings, or criminal sanctions.” In this regard, SCCI organizes regular consultation days, where companies and individuals have the opportunity to come individually and free of charge to consult with experts from the IPO SR.
Better protection of rights can bring more innovation
How do Slovak entrepreneurs and creative people manage the issue of protection of intellectual property rights? Statistics speak for themselves. “In the area of innovation performance, Slovakia has long occupied the lowest positions. However, the position of IT, the creative industries, knowledge transfer, technology, and innovation have significantly strengthened in our region over the last decade. A better understanding of intellectual property at companies can be another step towards being able to benefit from this favorable situation and thus increase their competitiveness on domestic and foreign markets.” The output of a cross-border project InProTool, implemented by The Košice Regional Chamber in cooperation with Chambers of Commerce of regions Banská Bystrica, Novohrad, Heveš, and Boršod-Abov-Zemplín, will be an online service for pre-forecasting industrial rights for businesses and individuals. “After completing the online questionnaire, each applicant will receive information on what type of intellectual property protection they should focus on. The aim is to increase people’s awareness of this issue and at the same time make it easier for the applicant to orientate himself/herself in the possibilities of protecting his industrial property.”
Employees of Chambers of Commerce will also be trained within the InProTool project to provide this new pre-diagnostic service, but also to provide other consulting and advisory services in the field of industrial property protection. “I am very pleased that we are implementing this project in cooperation with Hungarian partners, which gives us the opportunity to deepen cross-border cooperation not only between our institutions but also to bring entrepreneurs on both sides of the border closer.”
Where to go next Košice?
Monika considers it an advantage of Košice that people with a desire to cooperate get into the leading positions of many companies and institutions. “This is where I see the potential of SCCI – to develop the intersection of interests between the public and private spheres, culture or education. It is very important that we know about each other, break down imaginary boundaries and look for what unites us and in what we can be mutually helpful. Only in this way can we move forward together.” In the end, however, she adds that the Košice Region is not just about people and companies in the city of Košice. “The life beyond the metropolis of the East is different and beautifully diverse. Here you will find inspiring stories of companies and people who built them and who are not known or written about. My vision is to connect the world of innovation with tradition. Experiences on which we can build and companies with relationship to the region that do not go abroad because of more favorable business conditions. Even traditional industries operating in individual regions form an important piece of the puzzle. If we can develop it, it can both help the local community and be a source of uniqueness and diversity for the whole region.”
The project InProTool – Industrial Property cross-border pre-assessment tool is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the Slovak-Hungarian cross-border program Interreg V-A Slovakia-Hungary. The total budget of the project with a duration of 16 months (1.12.2020 – 31.3.2022) is 165 170 EUR, of which the ERDF contribution is 140 394.50 EUR.
The project is implemented by the Banská Bystrica Regional Chamber of SCCI (main partner) in cooperation with the Košice Regional Chamber of SCCI and the Hungarian Chambers of Commerce of the Novohrad, Heveš, and Boršod-Abov-Zemplín regions.