17 June 2024,

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between octrooi and patent?
Patent is the English or German translation of the Dutch term ‘octrooi’. Many Dutch speaking people prefer the term ‘patent’, because they feel it is easier to pronounce and sounds more familiar than ‘octrooi’. There is no difference between the two words. They both refer to an exclusive right to prohibit others from using an invention.

2. How much will it cost to obtain a patent?
Obtaining a patent costs about the price of a car. This means that ‘it depends’. Important factors influencing the price are the strength of the invention (how new and inventive the invention is), how much you contribute in the application process, in which countries you file your patent application, in how many countries you file your patent application, which filing routes you use and for how long you wish to keep your patent. Expect to invest at least 2500 euro for a straight-forward patent application.

3. How long will it take before I have a patent?
This depends on which filing routes you use to file a patent application and on how strong (how new and inventive) the invention is. If you follow the normal routes, your patent application will stay a secret for 18 months. After 18 months, your patent application is published, and only after publication a patent can be granted. As a consequence, it may take between about 2 and 6 years to obtain a patent.

4. How long should I keep my invention a secret, if I wish to obtain a patent?
Do not talk about or publish your invention before you have filed your patent application. Otherwise you will not get a valid patent. Keep your invention a secret at least until the day of filing the patent application. It is even better to keep your invention a secret until the patent application is published, 18 months after filing the application.

5. How long is a patent valid?
Most patents are granted for a period of 20 years, counting from the day the patent application was filed. To keep your patent alive, you have to pay renewal fees to the patent office. If you do not pay the fee, it is assumed that you have lost interest in your patent, and your patent will lapse.

6. Where can I obtain a patent?
Patents are national rights and are therefore granted for one country, by the national governmental office of that specific country. In the Netherlands, patents are granted by the Netherlands Patent Office (Octrooicentrum Nederland; Octrooicentrum NL) a department of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) www.rvo.nl. At regional patent offices, you can file one patent application and cover several countries in a region. For example, European patents cover several countries in Europe and are granted by the European Patent Organization EPO.

7. How do I file a patent application in several countries of the world?
You could file several patent applications, one in each country of your choice. However, it is more convenient to file an international patent application under the centralised application process of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). International patent applications under the PCT system are filed via WIPO. One PCT application is equivalent to filing several national patent applications in more than 150 countries in the world.

8. How do I obtain a worldwide patent?
A worldwide patent or international patent does not exist. If you wish protection in several countries in the world, you can file a PCT application, which you later convert to national patent applications and hopefully to national patents. A PCT patent does not exist. It is always a PCT patent application.

9. What is the difference between an applicant and an inventor?
The inventor is the person who made the invention, i.e. who provided the technical solution to a problem. An applicant is the person (natural person, organisation or company) who applies for the patent. The applicant becomes the owner of the patent once the patent is granted. The inventor has the right to be the applicant of the patent, but may give (assign) this right to a third party. For example, to the employer through an employment agreement, to a research institute through a research project agreement or to another party through another type of agreement. It is important that this assignment is timely and in the right way.

10 Publish or patent?
You don’t have to choose between patenting or publishing. You can do both! Timing is important here. First file your patent application and then share your invention with the rest of the world, in that presentation, at the conference, at the internet or in that scientific paper. Your patent will always be published after 18 months.

11. What does it mean: patent pending?
Patent pending may be used to indicate that a patent application was filed. People use it to warn others for future rights or to show how innovative they are. Anyway, it does not mean that a patent has been granted.

12. What can be patented?
You can file a patent application for a technological innovation which is not obvious and which is still a secret. Your innovation may be a product, process or new application. These could all be in one patent application. For example, you invented a new type of shampoo which does not irritate the eyes. You could then file one patent application covering the shampoo (product), a process to prepare the shampoo (process) and the use of the shampoo to wash the hair of babies (application).

13. Why should I patent?
A patent protects your invention. With a patent, you can stop others from using your invention. If they want to use it, they need your approval (licence) and you can charge them for the licence. Whether you can use your invention yourself, depends on other patents and on legislation. For example, if you have a patent for a vaccine, this does not mean that you can market the vaccine. Marketing of vaccine is regulated and they cannot enter the market without approval from the health and safety authorities. A patent also has fiscal benefits and it can assist you in obtaining grants and funds.

14. What is intellectual property?
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, www.wipo.int) defines intellectual property as creations of the mind. Inventions, designs, literary and artistic works and brand names are examples of intellectual property (IP). IP is protected by law by IP rights. Examples of well-known IP rights are copyright, patents, trademarks, design right. This protections is meant to stimulate creativity and innovation. Every year on 26 April is World Intellectual Property Day, with special attention for an IP theme.

15. What is a patent attorney (octrooigemachtigde)?
A patent attorney can write your patent application, file it with the patent office and represent you in discussions with patent authorities. A patent attorney can also help you with other patent issues, for example to discuss whether or not to patent your invention or which route to follow, national, EPO or PCT. A patent attorney can also advise you on other forms of intellectual property. You are not obliged to consult a patent attorney. You are allowed to do it all yourself.

16. What is the difference between a patent attorney (octrooigemachtigde) and a patent expert?
A Dutch patent attorney (octrooigemachtigde) is a qualified patent professional. It is a protected title with reserved activities. Therefore, you are not allowed to call yourself a patent attorney if you are not qualified. Dutch patent attorneys have a technical scientific degree and have passed their patent law exams. A Dutch patent attorney has been sworn in, is registered in the official Register of Patent Attorneys of the Netherlands Institute of Patent Attorneys (Orde van Octrooigemachtigden, www.octrooigemachtigde.nl) and has to comply with the Rules of Conduct of the Institute. Therefore, a Dutch patent attorney has a duty of confidentiality. Anyone can be a patent expert or patent specialist. There are no rules.


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