Applying for a patent

You are or have been working on a technical innovation. This could be an innovative product, the operation of a product, or a process to make something or make something happen. That process can also be contained in innovative software. If the development solves a technical problem, a patent generally tends to be the best way to obtain an exclusive right.

In addition to wanting to protect an invention, there are all kinds of other good reasons to apply for a patent. You add knowledge to your business and, by doing so, increase its value. It gives investors certainty, makes it possible for you to sell your invention or licence it. From a tax points of view it will help you gain access to the Innovation Box.

Read on about applying for a patent for an innovation >

DESIGN PROTECTION

A patent makes it possible for you to protect innovations that solve a technical problem. However, the main focus of your innovation may not be on the technology, but on the appearance of the product. You can also effectively protect your investment in the design of the product by means of a so-called design registration. A design registration gives you exclusive rights to the design and therefore makes it possible for you to take action against any copycats.

The most important criterion for a design registration is the 'individual nature' of the design. Evidence for this has to be provided by a set of images that form the basis for the design registration. In Europe every application that meets the minimum formal requirements is granted automatically and quickly. In a country like the United States an actual substantive examination needs to take place, which is why it is referred to as a Design Patent over there.

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TRADE SECRET

Applying for a patent is not always the most effective way to protect your technical innovation. There are situations in which secrecy is a better option.

Keeping an innovation, know-how or craftsmanship secret is preferable to applying for a patent when, for example:

  • You want to keep the trade secret intact forever.
  • If your competitor cannot tell how the product is made by looking at it.
  • If certain important aspects of the product cannot be determined by analysis.

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PATENT SEARCH

All patent applications and grantings end up in public databases. In many countries the procedures involved in the granting are even available online. That public availability is a cornerstone of the patent system. However, recently filed applications form the most important exception to this and are generally kept secret for 18 months after they were filed.

Patent documentation contains a wealth of information which you can benefit from in various ways. A search will help you find the right documentation. In the case of an innovative product it is important to establish if someone beat you to it and has already described the technology. If you want to enter the market with a product it is important to find out if you are not violating anyone else's rights by doing so. In both cases a good search can help you avoid nasty surprises and unnecessary costs.

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ENFORCING YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

You have protected your innovation by means of a patent or design registration. Even though those rights can be found in public databases it does not necessarily mean that your competitors are aware of them. As a result other companies may, unintentionally, be planning or carrying out commercial activities that infringe your rights.

You can make the outside world aware in all kinds of ways that your innovation is protected by certain rights. If you manage to get your competitors to respect those rights by doing so, you will have particularly effective protection. Sometimes it is nevertheless essential to take active steps to ensure that you stay ahead of the competition and protect your rights.

Read on about enforcing your Intellectual Property rights >

Infringement accusation

Irrespective of whether or not you have protected your innovation with a patent, you can still come into contact with Intellectual Property rights of others as soon as you enter the market. You might - unintentionally - be infringing a patent.

If you are somehow accused of a patent infringement, or suspect that that situation may arise, we recommend that you first of all find out if this is indeed the case. If you ignore a legitimate accusation and simply carry on with your commercial activities, you run the risk of being summoned to appear in court. This will generally result in a demand that the infringer immediately cease its activities as well as a claim for damages.

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Wat is patent monitoring and alerting?

You innovate on the limits of what is possible. Just you, at least you hope so. Or are there some others out there as well? And if there are, where are they? Are you free to innovate in the direction you have in mind, or are there any patents belonging to others that form an obstacle?

We can investigate every specific case for you, but if you are continually innovating it is better to continually monitor the situation as well. Virtually all patent applications end up in public, freely accessible patent databases. A huge number of publications are published every week in all kinds of languages.

In the case of patent monitoring and alerting we systematically make a monthly selection of patent documents. We use a commercial database for this which optimises the information and presents it in a more effective way. We tailor the selection to your needs. We can, for example, monitor an area of technical expertise, your competitors, specific inventors or a combination of criteria. We can also monitor the progress of specific patent actions. Every single month.

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What is patent portfolio management

There are a great many administrative transactions involved in applying for and maintaining patents. You have to submit the proper documents, answer additional questions and pay your fees on time. If you miss any of these deadlines, you run some serious risks. In the worst case your patent or design right may even expire. It is therefore of critical importance that you keep a close eye on these administrative transactions and deadlines.

Many of our customers see these administrative tasks as a chore. That is quite understandable because you would obviously prefer to use your R&D people to create successful new products, services and innovations. That is why you would be better off outsourcing the management of your patent portfolio. This way you will be able to concentrate on what you are good at without having to worry about the management of your existing patent portfolio.

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