A patent protects an invention concerning a technical product or process.
An invention is basically know-how that the inventor does not want to disclose until they have filed a patent application. However, how can you negotiate with future financial or business partners without disclosure? By storing your idea in a BOIP i-DEPOT, you can prove that you invented a technical product or process first. The i-DEPOT issues a date stamp and, unless you choose to make it public, remains closed to third parties. You can, for example, mention the number of your i-DEPOT in a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This will give you the possibility to negotiate more freely with financial or business partners. If a potential partner discloses your invention, you will be in a better position to prove that they breached the non-disclosure agreement.
Do not disclose your invention until you have filed a patent application! If you reveal your invention to the public too early, it will no longer be considered novel and will become unpatentable.
What is the practical advantage?
A patent gives you a temporary monopoly on the invention. You can prohibit others from using the invention.
How long is it valid?
A patent is valid for a maximum of twenty years.
Do you want advice?
BOIP is an independent body and, as such, it can provide information but cannot provide advice on an individual basis. An external patent professional can, however, advise you on how best to obtain patent protection. In the Netherlands, the Netherlands Institute of Patent Attorneys is the right place to seek such advice. In the case of Belgium, a list of authorised patent attorneys can be found on the FOD Economie website. For Luxembourg, visit the website of le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg.
- A patent gives you an opportunity to recoup the high costs of research and development.
- You can license or sell a patent.
- With a patent, you can ban others from the market.
What are your rights?
The owner (holder) of a patent is the only one who can use, produce, sell and import or export the invention for a certain period of time (maximum 20 years).
Is my idea novel?
An invention is not novel, if someone else has invented the same or has already applied to patent it. If that is the case, it is wise to adjust your innovation plans, for example to make an improvement to an existing invention. You could also contact the patent holder to seek cooperation or to obtain a licence.
You can use specialized databases to research which inventions are already the subject of a patent application. You can do the research yourself, but it may be wise to rely on the services of a patent specialist to do the job. In the Netherlands, the Netherlands Institute of Patent Attorneys is the right place to seek such advice. In the case of Belgium, a list of authorised patent attorneys can be found on the FOD Economie website. For Luxembourg, visit the website of le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg.
Is my idea inventive?
An invention is inventive if it is an original idea that an expert or skilled person would not have devised easily. It must not be obvious. However, this does not necessarily imply an invention to be complicated. A simple solution to a problem can also be inventive.
Is my idea suitable for industrial application?
An invention has technical applications if it provides a technical solution to a technical problem. Conversely, you cannot patent a service, an arithmetic method, a scientific theory or an idea that has not been converted into something tangible, for example.
Patents in Belgium
Patents in the Netherlands
What can you do with patents?
A patent allows you to protect an invention regarding a technical product or process. Patents can also be a source of information that can feed into your innovation work. Answers to the following questions, for example, can be found in patents:
- Which solutions have already been devised?
- Who are my competitors?
- Who are my potential partners?
The Netherlands Patent Office (OCNL) can help you with these and other questions about patents. It offers assistance with researching patent information, workshops, guest lectures, consultations, e-learning modules and patent education. An overview of OCNL's information services can be found on the RVO website.
Applying for a patent
If you want a patent to protect your invention, you must apply for it. A patent is valid for a specific country or group of countries. You decide in which countries you want protection. You can apply for a patent for the relevant country or countries separately or for a number of countries at the same time.
For the Netherlands, apply for a patent at the Netherlands Patent Office (OCNL).
Please feel free to put any questions you have regarding patents to the Public Information Department of the Netherlands Patent Office. Call 088 042 42 42 (choose 5 and then 3).