A patent protects an invention concerning a technical product or process.
You can apply for a patent for products or processes that are in themselves technical, such as advanced machinery or smartphones. You can also apply for a patent, however, for a product with a particular technical aspect. There can be technical innovation (or invention) in the smallest of details: take, for example, the indentation in a rusk biscuit that makes it easier to take it out of the packet, or a children’s sleeping bag with special openings for a car safety belt.
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. 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 producing, importing, selling or using the invention commercially.
How long is it valid?
A patent is valid for a maximum of twenty years. However, the owner of the patent has to pay a fixed amount (tax) each year to maintain the status of the patent.
- 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, import or sell the invention for a certain period of time (maximum 20 years).
Is my idea novel?
An invention is not novel if it is already in the public domain somewhere in the world. This is the case, for instance, if the invention has already been put on the market or published, or if someone else has already applied for a patent for it. If someone else holds a valid patent and you are unable to obtain permission from the patent holder to bring the invention on to the market, it is wise to adjust your innovation plans. You can amend them, for example, to ensure they no longer infringe with respect to the existing invention. You could also contact the patent holder to seek their cooperation and 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 place to seek such advice. In the case of Belgium, a list of authorised patent attorneys can be found on the SPF Economy website. For Luxembourg, visit the website of The Government of the Grand Duchy of 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 that an invention has to be complicated. A simple solution to a problem can also be inventive.
Is my idea suitable for industrial application?
An invention is suitable for industrial application if it can be produced or applied in an industrial or agricultural setting. 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
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Intellectual Property Service
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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 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 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, you can apply for a patent at the Netherlands Patent Office.
Please feel free to put any questions you have regarding patents to the Public Information Department of the Netherlands Patent Office. Tel. 088 042 40 02.
Patents in Luxembourg
®, ™ and ©: 3 symbols you see often. Here we tell you about the (mis)conceptions surrounding them, as well as the benefits
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.