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If you have improved an innovation don't forget to patent it | EP&C

2023-07 EP&C Blog Een innovatie verbeterd_2_Kolom_356x301An innovation is not always finished when the initial patent is filed. Improvements or new applications could be conceived at a later stage. Follow-on developments like this can open the door to new patents which can have several benefits. So when important follow-on developments take place don't forget the potential added value of a follow-on patent. 

More warning signs

A single basic patent already provides the necessary protection and benefits. However by applying for more patents on your innovation the protection gets a little stronger each time. There are then more warning signs around an innovation, as it were, and it becomes increasingly difficult for competitors to challenge your patents or come up with a workaround. 

Be alert to improvements

Inventors do not always realise that an improvement to an innovation can be patented. They think it is only natural to make a few changes along the way. But what they consider to be a simple improvement may actually very clearly solve a technical problem and therefore be patentable. So when a change is introduced that improves the innovation or ensures that it can be used for a new application, this should result in a light bulb moment. You should then check with your patent attorney whether it would make sense to apply for a follow-on patent. 

Benefits of patenting follow-on developments

But a new patent costs even more time and money, right? True, but it will pay for itself in the long run. Moreover, there are also ways in which you can spread the costs. This is particularly appealing for startups. The benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks of time and money:

  • If a competitor challenges the validity of your first patent with strong arguments you may end up losing that patent. However, if there are multiple patents on different improvements to the innovation then some patents will continue to stand up to scrutiny.
  • The chances of a competitor challenging your patents are reduced precisely because there are multiple patents and it will be difficult to challenge all of them successfully. It acts as a deterrent.
  • You may not be able to implement your own improvements if someone else comes up with the same idea and applies for a patent.
  • An innovation covered by multiple patents is of greater interest to investors. The greater the competitive edge, the more likely they are to recoup their investment.
  • Patents can be used as part of a smart business strategy and can provide tax benefits through the Innovation Box.  
  • The original invention is protected up to a maximum period of 20 years. New follow-on patents can extend this maximum period of protection.
    ieuwe octrooien die hierop volgen kan deze maximale beschermingsduur verlengd worden.

When is something considered to be a follow-on development?

So there are plenty of advantages to continuing to keep innovating and patenting. But when does a follow-on development qualify for patent protection? For all patents, including a follow-on patent, the invention must be novel, inventive and industrially applicable. And that may be the case sooner than you think. 

Let's look at a concrete example. Imagine that you have invented a bioreactor that grows cultured meat. You have a patent on this reactor. The device is in use and does what it was designed to do. The patent ensures that nobody else can make or use this reactor without your permission. You then continue to develop this invention and discover that by changing the temperature and pH value it is possible to create even better growth conditions. If this modification has not been described before but does offer some unexpected benefits - such as improved cultured meat or more efficient production - you can apply for a patent on it. This can be done separately on each follow-on development and it is how you build solid protection for your innovation. 

Are you wondering what the best way to proceed with follow-on developments is? Patent them, keep them secret or perhaps follow a different route then why not get in touch with us? We would be happy to share our thoughts on this with you.

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