28 January 2003

Jim Runsten

On 5 December 2002 the Patent and Registration Office (“PRO”) announced that the agency will now offer a registration service for sole-proprietor businesses through the use of electronic signatures and electronic identification documents. This makes the PRO the first Swedish authority to provide certain members of the public with a service which permanently and fully recognises electronic signatures. A few other authorities, such as the Swedish Tax Administration, have recently begun to accept electronic signatures, but so far only on an experimental basis.

The PRO’s electronic service for sole-proprietor businesses is based on electronic “citizen certificates” issued by Nordea bank. The citizen certificate is a standardised system for issuing electronic identification documents, based on specific guidelines prepared by the National Social Insurance Board, the PRO and the Swedish Agency for Public Management.

The PRO administers around 700,000 registrations every year and the use of electronic signatures will undoubtedly simplify the agency’s future administration. It will however take a long time before all registration matters can be dealt with electronically. The main obstacle is the legal framework, which generally requires personally signed documents for registration and at least 280 amendments to Swedish legislation would be required to enable the PRO to offer a full service to everyone who wants to use electronic signatures (not just sole proprietors). The PRO estimates that it will take five to ten years before all the necessary amendments have been adopted. The new service for sole proprietors is the result of an amendment to the Register of Partnership Ordinance which allows registration of sole proprietorships to be made using electronic signatures combined with a citizen certificate.

Apart from this simplified administration procedure there are a number of other advantages to electronic registration applications. One advantage is that using the service requires the completion of an electronic template, which is impossible to submit if it has not been fully completed. This will save the PRO a lot of wasted time and effort since currently a large number of registration applications have to be returned, together with a completion order, because the application details supplied are incomplete. There are of course also a few situations when the new service cannot be used. For example, the service may not be used by individuals who reside abroad. Furthermore, one cannot make an electronic application for managing clerk, secondary name and parallel name.

Thus, with the introduction of the above service for sole proprietorships the PRO is the first Swedish authority to offer a functioning and permanent service based on electronic signatures. As a part of the digitalisation of its services the PRO and the Swedish Tax Authority have also created a joint, web-based service for the registration of businesses ( These are two important steps in the programme initiated by the government to promote the establishment of so-called 24/7 agencies, i.e. agencies that provide the citizens with electronic services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In the years to come most Swedish authorities and agencies will, in compliance with this programme, work to implement services based on the use of electronic signatures and citizen certificates.

Important - The information in this article is provided subject to the disclaimer. The law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly.