How does it work?
When you have a special idea for a product or an innovation, you obviously do not want others running off with it. That is why it is important to protect your Intellectual Property rights properly. At EP&C, we can help you find the best way of doing this.
There are various ways of arranging legal protection for an invention or an idea. One of which, is an effective IP strategy. Needless to say, it all starts with an idea, and the best form of protection all depends on the end product and its application. A combination of different forms may turn out to be the best strategy.
Roughly speaking, the different types of protection are:
- a patent for new technical products or processes;
- a trademark for company logos, company names or product names;
- design rights, shape marks or copyrights for the new appearance of products;
- copyrights for photos, architecture, texts, music, films and so on;
- non-disclosure of, among other things, recipes, manufacturing techniques or compounds.
The first stages to effective protection include sound market research. You need to find out if there is a market for your idea or invention. You can look for information on the Internet, visit exhibitions and take a look at what your colleagues are doing. You can talk to users or sellers of similar products and try putting yourself in their shoes. You need to be realistic and if there isn’t a market for your invention, don’t be afraid to seriously reconsider.
When it comes to technical products or processes, a patent generally offers the best form of protection. In order to find out whether or not your idea has already been patent protected, you can search the patent databases at the Netherlands Patent Office (OCNL) website. These contain around 65 million publications. If your idea already exists, you will no longer be able to protect it with a patent and you run the risk of infringing someone else’s patent. It is therefore vital to check whether your idea is unique.
If your idea is unique and there is a market for it, make a prototype of the product. NB: if you want to show your prototype to others, you should only do so under strict secrecy. Ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or only show them the prototype once you have filed a patent application. If you have made a prototype, you may come across things you want to change in the design. You cannot simply go ahead and make these changes to the patent application you have filed. It is important, therefore, to carefully consider when the best time would be to file your application. Several patent applications in succession is not allowed, but you can just file one at the end of the development process.
Putting your business first
Drafting a good patent application requires specialist training and is best left to the professionals. We can help you identify the aspects of your invention that make it unique. Our expert patent attorneys are more than happy to help you with your application, and all have highly-qualified, technical and legal backgrounds to help you draw up a patent application that gets right to the core of your idea, your business and your key markets.
The overlap in technical expertise mean our experts will understand your invention and know exactly how to describe it, in the amount of detail required, and that your claim (the definition of your invention and the most important part of a patent) is formulated carefully in the patent application.
One of the advantages of a patent is that you stop competitors from launching the same product onto the market. You can also earn extra money by granting licences or by selling your patent on the longer term. The main drawback is that a patent application costs money. You should check out the Netherlands Patent Office (OCNL)’s cost calculator to get an indication of the costs involved. Consider whether the costs of your patent application are worth it.
How to apply
If you are looking to apply for a patent in The Netherlands, any other European country or across Europe as a whole, we can recommend contacting one of our patent attorneys. We would be more than happy to help you with your application and have direct links with The Netherlands Patent Office (OCNL), European Patent office (EOB), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as well as national patent offices across the world.
Once a patent application has been submitted, you can opt to file a PCT application after a period of one year as well, thereby obtaining worldwide protection for your invention. Another eighteen months after that, which is two and a half years after filing your first patent application, you will need to take a definitive decision with respect to the countries in which you want your invention to be patent protected.
A patent is valid for a maximum period of twenty years, or fewer, if you stop paying the maintenance fees. The experts of EP&C can offer you advice on all the steps involved in this process, so that you always make the right decision.
Other forms of protection
As we mentioned earlier, there are several other forms of protection available besides patents. Trademark law, for example, protects words and marks (icons, logos etc.) whilst design law protects the appearance of consumer items. Copyright law provides protection for literary works, arts and science, and specially-designed products may also be subject to copyright.
Then there are plant variety rights for crops and topographies of semiconductor products that protect microprocessors. In other words, it is advisable to seek advice when considering protecting an idea or product. EP&C can help you find the right combination and an effective IP strategy.