Establishment of the Estonian Patent Office

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The State Patent Office was established by the regulation of 23rd May 1919 of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Estonia. The Patent Act was implemented in 1921. On 15 April the Riigikogu passed the acts on changing the tsarist Factory and Merchandise Act, the Protection Act of Inventions, Trademarks, Patterns and Models and the Tax Act. This Act was the basis of the activities of the Patent Office until 1937. The Act prescribed the formation of the Patent Commission at the Patent Office dealing with the examination of the patent applications and making decisions on the registration of trademarks, patterns and models. Patents of the inventions and trademark certificates were granted in Estonia according to this Act, but their novelty was not examined, because of the lack of specialists and funds to be compared. At the chairing of the Head of the Patent Office a commission of three people made a decision on the grant of a patent on the basis of the submitted patent application meeting the requirements.

On 3rd April 1919 O.Kiese from Tartu submitted the first patent application for the method of fixing buttons with loops on the cloth to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. As at that time patents were not granted, he got a protection certificate granted on 7th April 1919. Aleksander Mikiver from Rakvere became the first owner of the patent in the Republic of Estonia by applying protection for the invention "A couple of stones of the horizontal mill, of which the bottom one goes round and the upper one goes automatically with the bottom one" on 18th November 1920. The patent was granted to him in 1922. The Finnish Veli Paloheimo was the first foreigner to whom a patent was granted He made an application for the "stub lifting machine" on 12th March 1920. The patent was granted on 20th October 1920.

Foreign patent applications formed the majority in the Republic of Estonia. The impact of the patent applications belonging to the foreigners was even larger in the total amount of granted patents as many national applications were not on the invention level and they were withdrawn. Several applicants could not pay the high fee for a patent.

Regulation No 41 of 23rd May 1919 of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Estonia, which can be regarded as the basis for the establishment of the Patent Office, says that "Buxhoevden has officially been appointed to post of an official responsible for working out of plans and the budget in the field of gold and silver standard, weights and measures as well as patents since 21st 1919". Buxhoevden worked up to the standards. The Ministry prescribed that "there should be a Division of Patents with the staff of 2 people (the Head and the official) under the Department of Industry in the plans for the present and the future". On 4th June 1919 the government decided to establish the Department of Engineering comprising of 4 divisions, which would include also the Division of Patents and Trademarks at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

At the next rearrangement of the ministries a post of the Head of the Patent Office under the Division of Industry belonging to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry was established on 1st May 1921. The official name of the Patent Office dates back to that time. On 18 May 1921 engineer Oskar Aarmann was appointed to the post of the Vice Head of the Patent Office. On 1st October 1921 he was appointed to the Head's post. He held the post until the liquidation of the Patent Office.

The Board of Appeal at the Patent Office was in charge of appeals. According to the Estonian law trademarks were not registered if they were against the public order or morality or could mislead the consumer. Good distinctiveness was required. The foreign applicants had the right to apply for the registration of his trademark only if he was the citizen of the state, where also Estonian trademarks were registered and if the trademark to be registered in Estonia was already registered in that state. Registration applications were filed with the State Patent Office via a patent attorney residing in Estonia. The duration of trademark protection was according to the applicant's wish up to 10 years. 6,587 trademarks had been registered by July 1940 during 21 years.

At that time patents were granted for inventions, which were totally novel or were composed by parts put together in a new way. Several inventions could go under one patent in the case they formed an ensemble and could not be used separately. Patent for the method was extended to the product produced by this method.

Citizens of Estonia and of the other states as well as legal persons could be patent applicants and patent attorneys. Patent was valid for 15 years. Publication system was use, examination was not carried out. It was written on the patent that the Republic of Estonia was not responsible for the following: that the invention was the property of the patent applicant, it was really novel, correctly and precisely described.

About 3,000 patents were granted during years, i.e. on the average 143 patents a year. the Estonian laws prescribed the protection of exclusive right of patterns and models with the term of up to 10 years. On 12 February 1924 the Republic of Estonia acceded to the Paris Convention and in 1927 to the Bern Convention on Copyright. The new Patent Act was established on 24th September 1937 and it entered into force on 1st January 1938. This act was based on the German patent system. About 3000 patents for inventions and more than 6 500 trademark registration certificates were granted in the Republic of Estonia. The number of foreign trademark registrations was on the average 1,5 times larger than tat of the domestic ones.

In 1940 after the occupation and annexation of Estonia the State Patent Office was liquidated and the whole system was destroyed. Three months after Estonia regained its independence in 1991 the State Patent Office of the republic of Estonia was re-established by regulation No 254 of 3 December 1991 of the Government of the Republic. On 10th March 1992, when the real operation of the Patent Office started only one person was employed and there were no acts on regulation of industrial property protection. By today the important acts have been established and 76 people work in the Estonian Patent Office according them.



Gerli Kangur
Senior specialist of the Preliminary Examination and Documentation of the Patent Department of the Estonian Patent Office

Last modified 19.09.2014