From a linguistic point of view, there is no difference between an octrooi and a patent. The meaning is exactly the same: the exclusive right to an invention. Patent is the English (international) term and octrooi is the Dutch term used to describe it.
However, in terms of substance there is a difference! That is because patent law is mainly regulated at a national or regional level. In this blog, I will therefore explain the differences between an octrooi and a patent.
LINGUISTICALLY: PATENT OR OCTROOI?
In everyday language patent and octrooi are used interchangeably as there is no difference in terms of the meaning. But as a patent attorney I always use the word octrooi (when I speak Dutch) because 'octrooi' is the official Dutch term for the exclusive right to an invention.
The word patent is derived from Latin and means 'open' or 'open letter'. It is used in English-speaking countries and in Germany, among other places. So octrooi is simply another word for patent.
So why do we use both terms in the Netherlands? It is a bit confusing, but the term 'patent' has gradually crept into our language as a result of the dominance of the English language, the internationalisation of laws and globalisation.
To make things even more complicated: the French do not use the term octrooi or patent, they use the term 'brevet'. The different terms reflect European diversity. Fortunately, they do not lead to a Babel of tongues.
If you are curious about the definition of a patent you can read all about it on our page that explains the meaning of a patent.
SUBSTANTIVE DIFFERENCE: PATENT VS OCTROOI
But when is an octrooi not the same as a patent? If you look at the substance, there is a difference. Because, despite globalisation, patent law is largely organised at a national or regional level, there are differences in requirements, procedures and costs for patents in various countries.
Three striking differences are:
- Registration model
- Costs of applying for a patent
1. PATENT LAW IS NOT THE SAME EVERYWHERE: SECRECY
In the Netherlands an invention has to be novel in order for a patent to have any value. That is a strict condition in patent law. The invention may therefore not have been published online or in print and not have been included in a presentation or lecture. Unseen, undisclosed, secret! In all respects.
Secrecy is an absolute requirement for patenting in most countries in the world. This is different in, for example:
- The United States
where you have a one year grace period after publication of the invention. If the inventor files a patent application within this grace period, the publication will not count in the assessment of the application.
2. APPLYING FOR A PATENT IN THE NETHERLANDS: REGISTRATION MODEL
In our country we work on the basis of a so-called registration model for patents. This means that every patent application is granted and registered. So we register first and then investigate later whether the patent was issued legitimately (in court, for instance).
This is a fairly exceptional procedure from an international point of view. In most countries, they first of all check to see if the invention meets criteria such as novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability. It is only when those investigations are positive, that the invention qualifies for a patent.
3. COSTS OF APPLYING FOR A PATENT
The costs of applying for a patent vary greatly from country to country. They are higher in some countries. Each country has its own fees for a search report or request for examination, for instance.
'Octrooi' or patent, at our company you can use either. It does not matter to us; we will do our utmost for both these terms!
So is an 'octrooi' the same as a patent? It is and it isn't. Every country has its own rules. Just like every patent agency handles the application and organises the support in its own particular way.