Patents and patent law

What are patents?

Patents are exclusive rights connected with an invention, with new technical know-how or the improvement of a product. In other words, a patent is granted to the inventor/developer of a technical solution for a particular problem. The inventor or developer then becomes the official owner of his/her invention.

What is a patent application?

A patent application is a request to grant a patent which provides a clear and in-depth description and explanation of the invention. The claims of the application are short and concise and form the basis for the scope of protection.

Why should I apply for a patent?

Once the right of ownership to a technical solution has been registered in the form of a patent, third parties may only use it with your approval. Patents can therefore be a source of income.

What kind of information do I need to collect in order to have a patent application drawn up?

When writing a patent application, it is generally advisable to get a clear picture of what is already known first, the so-called 'prior art'. It is also advisable to think through at least one design. You can best do this in consultation with your patent attorney.

How can I find out if my idea is new?

You can use the Espacenet patent database to find out whether your idea is new. This database, which contains over 70 million patent publications, is freely accessible. It goes without saying that EP&C can do this for you as well. By conducting thorough preliminary research you can prevent a situation in which you apply for a patent unnecessarily. To find out if a trademark or design already exists, you can consult the database of the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP). We can be of service to you in this, too.

We are in the preliminary stage. When do we need to start thinking about patents?

It is never too early to start thinking about your Intellectual Property. The sooner you start thinking about protection - and therefore also about the competition - the sooner it will become clear which direction you could or should develop your idea. It is therefore good for your development strategy.

How much does a patent cost?

The costs of a patent application are determined by the official fees charged by the organisations granting the patent and the fee charged by the patent attorney. Depending on the complexity of the invention the costs tend to range from €4,000 to €8,000. An initial meeting is always free of charge and without obligation.

How long is a patent valid for?

In principle, a Dutch patent is valid for a maximum period of twenty years from the date on which it was first filed. However, in order to maintain a patent you are generally required to pay maintenance fees.

Who is a patent granted by?

Patents are granted by official (government) bodies. For the Netherlands that is the Netherlands Patents Office. For Europe that is the European Patent office. EP&C’s patent attorneys have direct links with each of these organisations, as well as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and national patent offices across the world.

How do you determine the scope of a patent?

Patent rights are laid down in claims (Dutch: conclusies, German: Ansprüche). The wording of a claim determines to which device, method or application a patent applies. The interpretation of the claims is not just based on the actual wording, but also on equivalent designs that might fall within the scope of the patent.

Is there such a thing as a worldwide patent?

No, there is no such thing as a worldwide patent. That is why the registration of a patent in a particular country is always a strategic choice: per country or region, whereby attention must be paid to the target market for example, and the place of manufacture.