Companies come to EP&C for the protection of different products and processes, ranging from roller-coasters to plastic tops and from screen cloth in greenhouses to DNA analysis techniques.
Despite the diversity, nine out of ten companies have something in common, i.e. when they apply for Intellectual Property rights, they are often not really sure about the commercial potential of their invention, in both the Netherlands and elsewhere.
That can be a problem, because if you want to establish a patent right (What is the difference between a patent and an 'octrooi'?) you also have to indicate in which country you want to do so. So, what's next?
The so-called NL PCT Route is the ideal solution for entrepreneurs who want to see if their invention is really going to live up to expectations before they start pumping money into patenting it. It involves starting with a Dutch patent application followed by a PCT application.
What are the advantages of this route?
1. You can register your innovation quickly and quite cheaply on a certain date (priority)
In the case of the NL PCT route you start by filing a Dutch patent application. There are a number of advantages to this:
- Fast: You will receive the novelty search after about 9 months. You will find out within a couple of months if your patent has potential.
- A lot for very little: The international novelty search costs € 800. For this amount you will receive a top quality report that will provide you with information about the novelty, inventive step and susceptibility of susceptibility of industrial application of your invention.
Incidentally, if you decide to skip the Dutch patent application and to file a PCT application instead, that same search will cost you € 1,800.
Moreover, when you file the PCT application you will be able to react to the novelty search of the Dutch patent application by letter with the aim of revising the negative opinion about the patentability.
- € 1,000 saving: If you opt for a PCT application after you have filed the Dutch patent application, the costs of the novelty search (amounting to € 1,800) will be refunded to you, even though you only paid € 800.
- Saving on renewal fees. Payment of the renewal fees will be delayed by one year per country. This can lead to a considerable saving.
Then there is another major advantage:
With the first filing of the Dutch patent application you register your idea as your innovation. You claim 'priority' by doing so. If you subsequently opt for a PCT application, you will have the privilege of filing a patent in another country, with the same priority date as the Dutch application.
Let me explain this using an example.
You filed a Dutch patent application for an ingenious screw on 1 March 2017. If there turns out to be a gap in the market for this product in China, and you have filed a PCT application before 1 March 2018, you can file a Chinese patent application up until 1 September 2019. However, the priority date of this patent will be 1 March 2017. You will be able to take action against infringers with retroactive effect.
By applying for your Dutch patent on 1 March 2017, you have not only created a priority right in China, but also in 176 other countries in the world.
If you would like to find out more about this topic, I recommend you read our White Paper on priority rights.
2. You have time for market exploration
By opting for the NL PCT route you buy time, as it were, to explore your market. To be precise: 30 months after the first Dutch patent was filed. During this period you can decide in which countries you would like to commence patent proceedings.
You can use this time for various things. You can look for investors, launch your product and see how successful it is and monitor market developments and what your competitors are doing.
Political developments can also shed a different light on your business plan. The inauguration of a new president, for instance, may have a sudden and drastic impact on world trade.
Anyway, by giving yourself 30 months to reflect, you can develop insights that will help you decide whether you would like to apply for a patent in other countries and, if so, in which ones.
3. You put off a major expense until a later date
Finally, there is an advantage of a financial nature.
As you may have experienced yourself, the main costs involved in a development process tend to be concentrated in the initial period. Costs for testing the innovation, making the prototype, applying for an initial patent, perhaps also the costs of starting a new company, and market research are all activities that put pressure on the available budget, and they do so while the actual innovation itself is not bringing in any money!
The crux of the NL PCT route lies in the fact that you can put off one of the major expenses involved in IE protection until a later date. Until you know whether your innovation is going to pay off. At the same time you retain the possibility of patenting your innovation.
All in all it is possible to conclude that there are good reasons why the NL PCT is the most popular strategy adopted by smart entrepreneurs. By claiming priority you have time for market exploration and can make smart use of your IP budget.
If you would like to find out more about the NL PCT route, please click here.