I have been in the patent business for quite a few years. People ask isn't it boring? It definitely isn't! Every day I get the chance to talk to creative people who are full of enthusiasm about their invention. Developing a protection strategy with them is just a great experience.
Missing out on patent protection
However, I do occasionally need to disappoint people. Legally documenting an idea is subject to a number of rules which not everybody is familiar with. That is quite understandable, but if you then miss out on a patent, the result can be painful.
That is why I would to present you with my Top 3 patent blunders. These are examples I have actually come across myself. Hopefully they will stop you from making the same mistakes!
Blunder 1 – The Exhibition
I remember it as if it were yesterday. A well-known SME had presented its latest invention at an exhibition. People were really positive about it! Someone had even asked them if they had patented it. They hadn't, but they were going to make all the necessary arrangements the very next day.
When I sat down with me the next day, I had to tell them that unfortunately they would no longer be able to get a patent for a lot of countries, including the Netherlands. Why not? Because 'novelty' is one of the requirements and by presenting the invention at an exhibition it had become public knowledge and was therefore no longer novel.
Differences in patent law
Legislation differs per country. The same rules do not apply everywhere when it comes to 'novelty', which is just as well in this case. In Germany and the US, for instance, you are not immediately punished for personally disclosing an innovation. A so-called Grace Period of six months to a year applies here. We immediately applied for a patent in those countries.
The company ultimately had a great deal to benefit from the German and American patent. However, they would have really liked to have had one for other countries as well!
Blunder 2 – You get what you pay for
This blunder worked out alright in the end, but that was more down to luck than good judgement.
A man came to see me at the office. He had engaged an unnamed party to draft a patent application for him for € 300. That is really very cheap.
He wanted to expand the geographical coverage of his patent application to other countries. The party in question was not able to arrange this for him, which is why he approached EP&C.
When I read the patent application, I was quite shocked. His invention had not been described in the text! The patent application was not worth the paper it had been written on.
It was a blessing in disguise
The thing is that because his invention had not been described in the patent application and he had also not disclosed it, we were in luck and could start afresh. The person in question ultimately got a solid patent which he is still able to reap the benefits from today.
Blunder 3 – Invalid patent
A customer was approached by an American firm and offered the exclusive licensing rights for Europe for an innovative type of office supply. Among other things, an American and a European patent for this product had been applied. It would give my customer the opportunity to start selling this product in Europe on an exclusive basis. They liked the idea.
They had already taken a look at the patent application for the product themselves and were of the opinion that it looked fine. Fortunately they decided to play safe and ask me to take a look at the patent family.
It turned out that the actual patent applications themselves were fine. However, they were not valid in Europe because a mistake had been made with regard to invoking the priority of the American patent application. In Europe, slightly different rules apply for this than in America.
This customer had a narrow escape. They had almost bought a pig in a poke. They did get a license in the end, but at a much lower price!