Love them or hate them, Crocs have become synonymous with summer months, gardening and splashing about in the surf. But did you know that they recently lost their patent protection in the EU? This means that you can expect to see the shops flooded with copycat designs and variations.
Whilst the process of registering a patent can vary from country to country, patents are generally seen as a way of providing inventors with an incentive to keep coming up with new ideas. In short, patents grant the inventor a monopoly over the invention meaning they can exploit the invention without fear of competition for up to 20 years (subject to ticking all the administrative boxes).
After the 20 years has expired, the invention becomes part of the public domain and anyone is free to do what they want with it. This is in contrast to other types of Intellectual Property such as copyrights and trademarks which come with their own unique set of rules.
When it comes to registering a patent, there are a number of hurdles that need to be overcome. One of these hurdles is that the invention must not have been released to the public prior to the application having been made.
The recent Crocs case before the European Union Intellectual Property Office (“EUIPO”) is a perfect example of what happens if a patentable invention is released to the public prior to patent protection having been granted.
Crocs originally obtained the patent for their ubiquitous shoes in 2004. However, following a legal challenge by a competitor (and following on from a similar decision in the US) the EUIPO have ruled that because Crocs showcased their shoes at a trade show in Florida in 2002 and were featured on the company website in 2003, they were deemed to have been granted the patent in error and the patent has been revoked.
The key takeaway is that if you have come up with a great idea that you think may be capable of being patented, it is vital that you seek legal advice as soon as possible to reduce your chances of missing out on protection.