Director General’s Address
30 years of the Icelandic Intellectual Property Office
In 2021, the Icelandic Intellectual Property Office celebrated an important milestone. In July 1991, the Institution began operations as the Icelandic Patent Office. The history of the Icelandic Intellectual Property Office is a story of innovation and change in industry in Iceland for the past 30 years. During this time, the growing emphasis on innovation and the development of industry has meant that intellectual property and intellectual property rights have become more important than ever. That is not only thanks to Iceland being a party to a number of important international treaties, but also the government’s increased emphasis on innovation and the development of industry. Today, a strong intellectual property industry is the foundation of prosperity and value creation in Iceland.
Activities and Mission
A New Organisation Chart
A revised strategy for the ISIPO came into effect on May 1, 2021 and is valid through 2022. Along with the revised strategy, a new organisational chart came into effect, aimed to better define the roles of individual departments.
The revised strategy emphasises further improvement of our services, making them more efficient and user oriented. The development of digital solutions and information delivery therefore plays a key role in our main targets and projects going forward.
Emphasis will continue to be placed on increasing public awareness of intellectual property rights and strengthening the image of the Office. There is increased emphasis on the flow of information and knowledge-sharing through the introduction of diverse teamwork. Furthermore, we strive to create a good workplace while promoting sustainable and environmentally friendly operations.
Changes to the structure and organisational chart support, in a transparent manner, the objectives of the revised strategy and are intended to strengthen the Office's activities both internally and externally.
The department also accepts applications for the maintenance of rights, i.e., payment of annual patent fees and the renewal of design and trademark filing, and deals with requests for changes of parties, pledge of registrations and more.
Director General’s Office
Changes in legislation in 2021
Patents Act no. 17/1991 was changed in 2021 when Act no. 57/2021 was passed, implementing a so-called SPC waiver. According to Article 65 a. of the Act, it is now permissible to grant an exemption to third parties from the protection that substances/medicines enjoy by issuing a supplementary certificate (SPC) for the production and/or for implementation of the necessary operations for the production of substances/medicines intended for export outside the European Economic Area. The exemption may also concern the production for storage of such materials/medicines for marketing in Iceland after the additional protection expires.
The change is based on EU regulation no. 933/2019, which amended the EU regulation on supplementary protection certificates for medicinal products no. 469/2009 and is awaiting implementation in the EEA Agreement. A regulation for a more detailed explanation of what actions manufacturers need to take in order to take advantage of the exemption and the administration of the ISIPO is expected in 2022.
Other legal changes that may affect the procedures of the ISIPO were, among others, enactment of a new law on Icelandic capital domains, Act no. 54/2021. In Article 12 of the Act, it is specifically stated that the owner of a domain name is responsible for ensuring that use of the domain name does not infringe the rights of others, including intellectual property rights. The ISIPO submitted an opinion on the bill while it was under review.
There were no extensive changes in international regulations during the year that affect the activities of the ISIPO. Changes to the Madrid Protocol, PCT and Hague Rules that were approved by the WIPO General Assembly in autumn 2021 are available on the WIPO website, but they mainly concern the designation and registration of agents in the Madrid process, sequence listings and translations in the PCT Procedure, as well as deadlines, publication and priority rights requirements in the international design process. Most changes come into effect in 2022, others later.
The free trade agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom after Brexit took effect in 2021. EFTA and the United Kingdom worked together on a similar agreement which is expected to take effect in 2022.
Brexit had the effect that international applications of Icelandic entities that nominated the European Union did not automatically remain valid in the United Kingdom. Users who had designated the European Union in international applications were informed of this status. Brexit has the effect that agents operating in the UK do not fall under the provisions of Article 35 Of Act on Trademarks or similar provisions of the Patent and Design Act. It is therefore not expected that British agents can act on behalf of applicants in Iceland unless they were nominated before the UK's exit from the European Union.
The ISIPO is also involved in a dialogue with intellectual property representatives in Iceland. The Office has regular meetings with the Icelandic Association of Patent and Trademark Representatives and the Association of Patent Experts to share information and ensure that it can provide its clients with the best possible service.
To a considerable extent, these efforts take place with the European Patent Office (EPO). The ISIPO takes an active part in the management of EPO as the representative of one of its 38 member states. The Director General of the ISIPO was re-elected Vice Chairperson of the EPO’s Executive Committee for a term of three years in December of 2021. Furthermore, the ISIPO is involved in a variety of technical and legal projects, all of which aim to make information on patents and applications more accessible to users worldwide and coordinate the member states' interpretation of related legislation.
The Office’s employees also take part in meetings and courses organised by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), of which Iceland is a member. The ISIPO is also a participant in extensive cooperation efforts involving the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the Nordic Patent Institute (NPI) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and takes part in cooperation between the patent and intellectual property Offices of the Nordic and Baltic
The ISIPO’s Strategy
On May 1st, 2021, a new and revised ISIPO strategy took effect, and will remain in effect until the end of the year 2022. The strategy mentions five points that specify the Office's priorities.
In 2021, the ISIPO was one of the partners of Iceland Innovation Week and participated in a seminar with the New Business Venture Fund on the importance of intellectual property rights for investment in innovation. Furthermore, the ISIPO opened a “pop-up” office in Gróska business growth centre, where entrepreneurs were invited to seek advice.
The ISIPO also held workshops in various innovation accelerators and hackathons in 2021. These included Startup SuperNova, Hringiða, Ullarþon and Auðna - Technology Transfer Office’s Masterclass on innovation in bio and health technology. In past years, the ISIPO has also partnered with Gulleggið and provided participants with vital education and knowledge about intellectual property rights.
An important facet of this work is improving communication and information delivery to our clients, as well as developing a new website and digital application processes.
Þekkingarbrunnur’s training comes in the form of lectures and shorter courses managed by the Office’s employees. In addition, guest lecturers are occasionally invited to speak. Furthermore, the foundations have been laid for more specialised workshops, which will initially deal with the reception and treatment of patent applications and investigations into the registrability of trademarks.
The ISIPO has implemented an equal rights plan and equal pay policy, which is intended to ensure equal opportunities and status for ISIPO employees, regardless of gender. The policy is based on the ISIPO’s HR policy and the values of Professionalism, Knowledge and Trust.
The Icelandic government has granted a permit for improved facilities for the ISIPO, which will improve the workplace even further.
According to the Act on Climate Matters, government institutions must establish a climate policy and have Green Accounting. With Green Accounting, the ISIPO can, among other things, monitor the emission of greenhouse gases resulting from its activities.
In 2021, the ISIPO’s operations led to the release of the equivalent of 3.36 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 38% less than the previous year. An explanation for this large reduction is the fact that international meetings and courses were held in the form of teleconferences due to the pandemic.
In 2021 it was decided to offset the entire carbon emissions resulting from the operation of the ISIPO. 40 trees were therefore planted in the name of ISIPO due to emissions in 2021.
During the review of the organisation's strategy at the beginning of 2021, it was decided to prioritise further digital development, and the goal is now for the organisation to be able to provide all services digitally. Several important steps have been taken in the last few years to make this possible. Among other things, the organisation's databases have been modernised and powerful web services built on top of them to answer inquiries and receive information. In the first half of 2021, the project Digital ISIPO was launched. The project is two-fold and relates to external and internal services.
The new website includes a powerful search engine where it is possible to view applications and rights registered at the Office. It also allows the submission of all types of applications and papers digitally, and for the payment of application and service fees. “My pages” are also being developed for users to access various documents including application documents, registration certificates and rejection and justification letters.
30 years of the ISIPO
A brief history
Three people have served as Director General of the ISIPO throughout the years. Gunnar Guttormsson headed the Icelandic Patent Office when it began operations in 1991. He served until 2001, when Ásta Valdimarsdóttir was appointed Director General. The incumbent Director General of the Icelandic Intellectual Property Office, Borghildur Erlingsdóttir has held the position since 2010.
ISIPO’s anniversary conference: IP and sustainability: Innovation for a brighter future
Intellectual property and natural resources
Innovating for a brighter future
Health, food production, and intellectual property
There was also a discussion on competitive advantages in green energy and how the energy industry has not used intellectual property rights and especially patents to a sufficient extent in recent years. According to Einari Mäntylä, Icelanders working in this field have not handled their knowledge well in recent years and have only sold it in the form of hours of work for consultants and not through intellectual property-protected technical solutions. When looking at the challenges the world faces as reflected on at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Iceland's contribution can be through ingenuity. By paying proper attention to intellectual property issues, Icelandic technological solutions could have an international impact.
According to panel participants, it is also important to mobilise both the private and public sectors. Ari Ingimundarson said that intellectual property issues need to be clear in order to mobilise private capital. At the same time, consideration must be given to the right incentives in public funding of research and development by conditioning it on innovation that is protected and with production and companies behind it.
Finally, it was discussed how the government's involvement in financing innovation in Iceland should be handled. Sigríður Mogensen mentioned that such funding and incentives for innovation are an investment for the future. Therefore, such funding, whether through the Technology Development Fund or reimbursements for research and development costs, should go to projects that are scalable and protected by intellectual property, and tapping into foreign markets should be considered to increase the national economy's export income. In the end, innovation is about what value creation will be created, and this will drive future economic growth and improved living standards for the future.
Intellectual property registrations valid in Iceland at the end of 2021
Registered intellectual property at the end of 2021
The number of trademark applications inIceland increased by almost 7% in 2021. However, the number of patent applications by Icelandic parties decreased by 23%.
The number of decisions on the publication of trademarks decreased considerably between years, or by 33%. The ISIPO made 2,651 decisions on publication in 2021, compared to 4,023 in 2020. The main difference is the publication of international trademarks, but their number decreased by 45% between years. The number of renewals of registered trademarks decreased by 5% year-on-year (3,133 renewals in 2021 compared to 3,287 in 2020). There was a decrease both in the number of international renewals (1%), national renewals by Icelandic parties (8%) and national renewals by foreign parties (12%).
The total number of national patents granted in Iceland in 2021 decreased from nine in 2020 to seven in 2021. Four national patents were granted to Icelandic entities in 2021 and three to foreign entities.
The number of Icelandic PCT applications decreased by 52% year-on-year, but 12 such applications were submitted in 2021 compared to 25 in 2020, which was a record year. IS-PCT applications are international PCT applications filed in Iceland where the applicant is Icelandic.
The number of confirmed European patents at the ISIPO decreased slightly in 2021 compared to the previous year. In 2021, 1,413 European patents were confirmed in Iceland compared to 1,445 in 2020, which is a decrease of 2%. This is only the second time since Iceland became a member of the European Patent Convention that the number of confirmed patents has decreased year-on-year, the other time being in 2020.
Rulings and decisions
In 2021, the Intellectual Property Office ruled in 14 objection cases and determined the validity of registration.
Rulings and decisions
Human resources and operations
At the end of 2021, 37 employees worked at the Office, 26 women and 11 men. Seven employees went on longer or shorter maternity or paternity leave during the year. One employee worked at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) as a seconded expert, and one employee was hired for a summer job through the Directorate of Labour’s initiative on summer jobs for students.
Stella, the employee association of ISIPO, hosted several events during the year despite various restrictions. The most noteworthy was a whitewater rafting trip down Hvítá in September.
Equal pay policy and equality plan
The operation of the ISIPO in 2021 went quite well during the year despite the effects of the pandemic. The Office's budget appropriation was ISK 571.5 million. As mentioned above, the operation is entirely financed by service fees. Operating income was ISK 527.9 million, somewhat below plan and about 2.5% less than in 2020. The most significant difference is in income due to international trademark applications, which was somewhat lower than expected. The largest proportion of the income was for trademarks, or 62% of the total income, followed by income from patents, which was 37%, while income from design was 1%. The ISIPO’s non-governmental income was ISK 12.6 million which comes in the form of reimbursements from international organisations for costs incurred due to collaborative projects, travel costs and the salary costs of an expert working at EUIPO.