We have discussed the advantages of a Dutch Patent and of the NL PCT route before. But when should you actually opt for a European Patent (not to be confused with the unitary patent, which does not exist yet)?
If you have a very clear idea of where your potential markets in Europe are, applying for a European patent would be a logical choice. Unlike in the case of the Dutch registration patent - which is granted automatically - this patent application follows a granting procedure. This means that an examiner of the European Patent Office carries out a novelty search and determines which claims contained in the patent application are going to be honoured.
Granting of European Patent
The examiner's findings apply for all 38 countries that are members of the European Patent Organisation. This means that, if you want to establish your patent rights in Germany, Italy and France for example, your patent application will not be reassessed. All you will need to do is register your patent. This is rarely ever done in all 38 member countries because of the associated costs. In this BL&G you will be able to find more information about this.
What does this procedure involve?
After the central application you will need to have the patent 'validated' per country. This is generally done within three months after the patent has been granted. Per country there are different administrative rules you have to comply with. In one you will have to submit a translation of the patent, whereas in another you will only have to submit a translation of the claims, or will not have to submit a translation at all. In order to maintain the patent, a renewal fee has to be paid per country each year. Sometimes this has to be paid straightaway, sometimes only a couple of years after the submission date. One thing that is the same in all of the countries is the scope of protection of your patent.
A European patent in short:
- The patent application follows a granting procedure. This ensures that there are fewer discussions about its validity.
- The granting procedure is valid for all 38 European countries affiliated to the European Patent Organisation.
- The patent will be registered in the countries designated by you within three months after it is granted. You can choose as many countries as you like.
- You will need to pay the national renewal fee per country as well as any other costs for validation.
If your competitor has a Dutch patent, it is a good idea to find out if this is a Dutch registration patent or the Dutch part of a European patent. In the first case it might be possible to haggle about the patent's validity to a certain degree. In the second case the patent will be stronger.