Patents are vitally important for companies in the cleantech sector as innovations and technological advances are essential for growth in this sector. When applying for a patent there are several factors you need to consider. For instance, your company's location also affects your application. In this article Jeroen Meesters, Patent Attorney at EP&C, discusses how your place of business can be a determining factor when applying for a patent.
The place of business: important for patent applications, especially in Belgium
When it comes to the question as to whether your company's place of business has a major impact on a potential patent application then the answer is especially in Belgium. We do not need to look far for the reason for this, Jeroen Meesters explains.
"In principle, a company's place of business does not play a role when filing a patent application. However, Belgium, which is a multilingual country, is an exception to this rule. Belgium's language legislation states that in order to obtain a filing date Flemish companies must submit certain details of their application in Dutch and Walloon companies in French. Companies based in the Brussels-Capital Region can choose between the two languages, while companies in the German-speaking region must use German. (place a hyperlink here to article on filing in Belgium).
Using the wrong language has major consequences. If the requested information is not provided in the correct language on your application, you will not receive a filing date. This obligation does not apply to natural persons and foreign companies wishing to apply for a patent in Belgium. They can choose to use one of the three national languages."
What if you have international ambitions?
This may have negative consequences for Flemish companies with international ambitions. After all, unlike in the Netherlands, in Belgium you cannot file an English-language description of the patent application without a translation into one of the three national languages. According to Jeroen, this means that if you, as a Flemish cleantech innovator, file a Belgian patent application in Dutch, you always have to provide a full translation if you also want to enter foreign markets.
"This is a disadvantage because of the costs associated with it. You don't have that problem in the Netherlands because there companies can file their application in English and only have to provide a Dutch translation of the conclusions. Walloon or Brussels-based cleantech companies or companies from the German-speaking part of the country also have an advantage over companies based in Flanders. They can also use their Belgian applications in French or German at European level, because in addition to English, French and German are among the official languages of the European Patent Office (EPO)."
The solution for cleantech companies based in Flanders
Jeroen explains that although the language requirements for patent applications in Belgium are disadvantageous for Flemish companies in the cleantech sector, EP&C does have a solution to this problem.
"For Flemish cleantech companies that want protection in Belgium but also want to go international, we first file an English-language patent application in the Netherlands. We then use this for an international or European patent application. If we follow this route and successfully obtain a European patent, that European patent breaks down, so to speak, into a bundle of national patents which automatically includes Belgium. Since 1 January 2017, English-language European patents no longer have to be translated in Belgium. Consequently, the translation requirements no longer apply.
Place of business and language requirements in relation to a patent application: looking to the future
According to Jeroen, the disadvantages of filing a patent associated with a place of business in Flanders may disappear in the future. In Belgium there is growing support for filing in English, just like in the Netherlands. This would be a huge step forward, in particular for Flemish companies with international ambitions, including those in the cleantech sector.
Filing in Belgium? These are the advantages
If you do want to file your patent application in Belgium, there are not only disadvantages to doing so of course. On the contrary, according to Jeroen, it can actually be a good choice from a budgetary and tax point of view.
"Not only are the costs of filing your patent application in Belgium somewhat lower than they are in the Netherlands but there are also significant tax benefits. By filing a direct Belgian application, you can more quickly take advantage of a tax incentive for your invention. For example, you can enjoy the so-called innovation income deduction which provides for an 85% corporation tax reduction on profits from your innovations. This makes Belgium an attractive country for innovative companies in the cleantech sector that want to protect their intellectual property rights.