It goes without saying that you will want to protect your Intellectual Property in the best possible way. But in the process involved in doing so you will probably come across terms that you do not know yet, or that are difficult to differentiate. Processes, institutions and rules that are very important but that many entrepreneurs and inventors are still unfamiliar with. One of these terms is the novelty search. You will not be granted a patent without such a search, but why? And how does it work?
Novelty search is a must
When it comes to obtaining a patent on your invention, there are three requirements that are absolutely key: the invention must be:
So you will not get a patent on an invention that someone else has already made. To make sure that this is not the case, it is a legal obligation to have the government body at which you file the patent - the Netherlands Patent Office (OCNL) or the European Patent Office (EPO) - conduct a novelty search. This is a search through existing patents from all over the world, which defines the extent to which your innovation already exists. You will get the result in a novelty report after about nine months.
How much does a novelty search cost?
The costs of a novelty search amount to:
- € 100 for a national search (by the Netherlands Patent Office)
- € 794 for an international search (by the European Patent Office)
Although the name suggests that there is a difference in the scope of the search, this is in fact not the case. Both organizations conduct a worldwide search for publications, so not just for Dutch or European ones, for example. However, the EPO uses more advanced tools as a result of which the ultimate report provides a more complete picture of the novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability.
This difference in price is the result of subsidies from the Dutch government for the national search to encourage people to obtain a patent. However, an international novelty search can also be used in a follow-up phase, which may make the choice for this search cheaper in the long run.
The search findings are recorded in a novelty report. This report gives an indication of the strength of your patent application and will enable you to decide whether to continue with your patent application as it is, change it or withdraw it.
Doing your own research into the chances of obtaining a patent
It is of course nice to have an indication of your chances of a successful result, and preferably before you decide to invest in a patent application. Fortunately, you can do your own research into this. You can google your invention or search patent databases such as Google Patents and Espacenet, for example. It is also good to keep a keen eye on similar products in your market.
On top of that, my colleagues and I can do a patent literature search to get a better idea of what is happening in your particular field. We can then use these results to more closely adapt your patent application to what already exists and thus define an optimal scope of protection.
But what if you find out that the product already exists? Novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability are absolute requirements for a patent. If your invention fails to meet these, you will not be able to get a (strong) patent. But not to worry. Sometimes you can still meet these requirements by making some modifications, for example. However, it is advisable to do this in close consultation with a patent attorney. He or she can advise you on how best to tackle this.