A patent is legal proof that a holder holds the rights to an invention. This exclusive right protects the inventor and stimulates society's innovative strength. It is partly thanks to patents that we are getting smarter all the time. Before I started in this profession, I had a lot of questions about patents and their meaning. You can read all about these in my blog.
Coming into contact with the world of patents
During my first academic year I met an examiner of the European Patent Office (EPO), the body that assesses European patent applications. He told me about his job with such passion that I started thinking aabout going to work for the EPO.
This was the first time that I had come into contact with the patent profession, but not the last. A couple of years later, when I was doing my Master's, I came across a vacancy at the EPO. It made me think about
What is it I look for in a job, but also, what is patenting all about? What is it and why does something like that exist? Here are the results of my contemplations.
Passion for technology
As far as the first question is concerned, what I look for in a job is the same as what I looked for in my study: I want to satisfy my curiosity. To be challenged to think about technology and technological developments. In other words, innovation, science and its practical application.
This is what my current job is all about. The opportunity of working with inventors to look for ways to optimally protect their work and to find the best practical applications for their invention, makes a patent agency the ideal place for me to work.
A patent right is temporary
A patent is an exclusive right granted by the government on the exploitation of an invention. With a patent the holder can, for example, forbid others to use, copy or commercialize the invention. The holder can also demand a licence fee for the use of the invention.
This exclusive patent right is temporary and, in principle, valid for a maximum period of twenty years. This period may also be shorter, however, because it stops being valid when the holder stops paying the annual renewal fees to the government.
What does a patent look like?
A patent is an official paper which is tangible proof of the exclusive right to an invention. It is assumed that the right granted to Simon Stevin in 1584 on his invention of a water pump is the oldest patent in the Netherlands (download example)
It took until the beginning of the nineteenth century for patents to be provided for by law, but the existing Patents Act did not come about until 1910. It was replaced by a new act in 1995, which was amended quite considerably in 2008.
With patents we stimulate progress
In essence a patent is a legally recognised agreement between an inventor and society. The aim of the patent system is to encourage people to make their inventions public and consequently stimulate technological progress.
Or, as Prime Minister Rutte said in 2014 at the start of the construction of the new EPO building in Rijswijk: "Patents are the oil in the machine room of economic innovation."
Exclusive right as a reward for innovation
Inventors and innovative companies acquire an exclusive right to their innovation for a maximum period of twenty years by way of a reward for their innovation. It makes their desire for innovation pay. In return for that their innovation is made public.
The sharing of this technological knowledge is making us, as a society, increasingly smart. The patent system is generating more, and increasingly rapid technological developments.
My initial contact with patents ultimately led to me finding a great job. What is the patent system going to do for you?