In my previous blog I promised to provide you with more detailed information about a very efficient protection route which is followed by nearly all of my innovative clients. It is the so-called NL-PCT route. This route is a logical and good choice for large multinationals as well as for SMEs, start-ups and even private individuals.
What is the NL-PCT route?
Let me start by explaining what the route entails. It is basically an affordable step-by-step procedure that gives you, as an inventor, two and half years to decide in which countries you actually want patent protection.
Dutch priority patent application (NL)
It starts with the drafting and filing of a Dutch priority patent application, which can simply be filed in English. As soon as you have filed your application you will be able to go public with your invention and will have the right to extend the patent protection to any country you wish for a period of one year. During this year you will receive an official novelty report from a European Patent Office examiner specialised in your field. This will give you a good insight into the novelty and inventive step of your invention.
International follow-up patent application (PCT)
Assuming that the novelty report is positive and that the invention is well received by the outside world, you will be able to file an international follow-up patent application. You will then have the opportunity to supplement the text and drawings with new embodiments and insights about the invention. You can also file a response to the novelty report. In this case the same examiner will take another look at it and round the whole thing off with a final report. The main advantage of this is that your invention is assessed in one central place. This will enable you to save costs when you decide to get patent protection in other countries as this final report is now recognised in a growing number of countries.
PCT stands for Patent Cooperation Treaty. Almost all countries in the world are party to it. Right now there are 156 member countries. It will give you an extra eighteen months to choose your countries. Including the first year of the Dutch priority patent application, you will have a total of two and a half years to decide in which countries you actually want to get patent protection.
Important: 2.5 years of entrepreneurial freedom
Why is the NL-PCT route so important? I will use an example to illustrate this. Suppose you have a brilliant energy-saving idea for a greenhouse or an idea to further reduce the amount of nitrogen produced in agriculture. Both of these are very topical issues right now. The patent system then forces you to arrange your patent protection before you can openly discuss your idea with others or try it out in practice. So it is not possible to find out whether the market is enthusiastic about it first. The time may seem right for such an innovation, but you will not actually know at that point how the market is going to react to it. Nor will you know whether someone else has possibly come up with the same bright idea. After all, the time is right. You simply cannot justify spending a great deal of money on worldwide patent protection at this point. As always, you have to invest before you can reap the benefits.
The 2.5 year deliberation period that the NL-PCT route offers you is crucial. You will enjoy a considerable degree of patent protection right from the start without having to incur sky-high costs. And two and a half years later you will hopefully be making a lot of money from the invention, and your choice of countries will be based more on a cost-benefit analysis.
EAnd what is just as important is that in the first year when you start testing your invention and talking about it with others, many creative extras will come to the surface. This will make your innovation even more complete. You will be able to include these new insights and improvements in the international follow-up patent application. This will make the patent protection even more robust. In the 1.5-year PCT procedure, you will be able to work together with the examiner towards a positive final report on patentability. This will allow you to arrange exclusivity in other countries with top quality patent protection which will contribute to making it abundantly clear to all your competitors that they should not attempt to copy your invention.
No guts, no glory
Even if you have a good invention, it is not guaranteed to be a success. You should nevertheless not hold back, even in uncertain times, when an economic recession is looming and energy sources are becoming unaffordable. The NL-PCT route was created for this very purpose. This route gives you plenty of time to decide step by step what is sensible for your invention and in the meantime, you can gain more insight into the commercial potential and patentability! I have provided you with a lot of information this time, but it is important. Next time I will be looking at another old horticultural patent :)