How to apply for a patent
If you have an invention, for example a new product or process, you may be able to protect it by filing for a patent. A patent will allow you to protect your invention and prevent other people benefiting from your success without permission. If you decide to protect your invention, you should consider which means of protection is the most suitable.
Patents are territorial and must be filed in each country where protection is sought. No one applies for a patent in all countries of the world, as it is much too expensive. You should determine the countries in which your most important markets are located and where you think you can exploit your product to make a profit.
Where to apply for your patent
- National: in the Netherlands
If you decide to apply for a patent in the Netherlands, you should start your search at the Netherlands Patent Office, a department of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. The Dutch grant procedure consists of a number of steps.
- Regional: in Europe
A regional patent application is a patent application that is filed with a central organisation for different countries. The application filed by means of a central granting procedure will result in a collection of national patents.
- International: worldwide
The Patent Cooperation Treaty (or PCT) was concluded in 1970 in Washington. This treaty allows a patent to be applied for all over the world by means of a single application procedure.
Sometimes a patent offers the best protection. Intellectual Property (IP) covers a wide range of subjects and you may find that you can protect your idea by another right, or a combination of rights. It is up to you to decide whether you apply for a patent and when you do so. This should involve a careful assessment of the risks. It is sensible to conduct research to find out if there is a market for your invention. This will prevent you from investing a lot of time and money in your invention only to find out later that no one wants to buy your product. You will then be unable to recover the costs that you have incurred.
Patent priority year
If you apply for a patent in the Netherlands first, you will have one year in which to file the same application in other countries. The filing date for the original Dutch application will then also apply to the foreign application. You can use this period, known as the priority year, to do research on the countries that may be of commercial interest for your invention.
Afterwards, if you do opt for a patent, you will have to make a number of choices again. Please take the following into consideration:
- Consider the countries in which there will be a market for your product. It would be wise to extend your patent to those countries. It is important to take future developments into account: a country that does not have interesting prospects as yet, may do so in the future. Market research should be carried out for this purpose.
- Consider whether you wish to continue managing production and distribution or whether you wish to outsource it. You can sell your patent, for example, or license it.
- When selling your patent, consider whether you wish to sell in one go for all countries or if you wish to decide on a country-by-country basis.
Costs of a patent
For an estimate of the costs of a patent for your invention in one or more countries, you can use the Cost Calculator for Protection of Intellectual Property.
Compensation for the costs for SMEs
With its SME Fund, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) meets the costs of applying for intellectual property rights for SMEs within the EU. Think of applying for patents, but also for trademark and design rights. The EUIPO does this in the form of a voucher. The vouchers are issued on a first-come, first-served basis.
The SME Fund can reimburse 75% of the fees charged for national and European patent applications. This can include fees charged by the European Patent Office or by national patent offices in Europe, for the filing of a patent and for the novelty search. The fees are reimbursable up to a maximum of €1,500.
Please note that you will need a voucher before the filing of the patent application. Vouchers are valid for up to 4 months from the date they are issued.
Do you want to use the voucher for a trademark or design rights application? Then read more on the website of the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP).
Apply for a patent or not?
When choosing whether or not to apply for a patent, there are many matters that you have to take into account. The choice whether or not to apply for a patent is a strategic one, as it determines the way in which your invention will develop further.
It is not always easy to decide whether to apply for a patent or not. A list of factors that will help you to make the right decision.
Do apply for a patent if
- the benefits outweigh the costs;
- your product has a long life cycle;
- there is a large market with a lot of potential licensees;
- you want to protect your market share;
- an infringement of the patent can be easily demonstrated;
- you can use a patent as part of negotiations;
- your patent enhances your or your company’s image;
- it is impossible to keep your invention secret;
- it involves a key technology;
- you require funding or wish to enhance the value of your company.
Do not apply for a patent if
- the costs outweigh the benefits;
- your product has a short life cycle;
- there is a small market with low margins;
- there are numerous available alternatives;
- it is not possible to prove that the patent has been infringed;
- time is of the essence;
- competitors have insufficient capital;
- reverse engineering is difficult and it is possible to keep your invention secret;
- there is a limited market and it is more costly and time-consuming to maintain the patent.
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