Protection of intellectual property

Inventors, designers, developers and authors protect the ideas they have developed, for instance by means of copyright or patents. The aim is to prevent others from wrongly profiting from their creations or inventions.

Types of intellectual property rights

The Netherlands has the following types of protection for intellectual property rights:

  • Patents

    Patents protect inventions of products and technical processes. It is unlawful for others to make, use, resell, rent out, or supply the patented object or process. The patent holder may however give others permission to do so by granting a patent licence.
  • Copyright

    Copyright protects works of literature, scholarship, science, and art. These include books, films, paintings, music, games, photographs and software. It is regulated by the Copyright Act. Copyright exists automatically, so there is no need to register or apply for it. Anyone who makes a drawing at their desk at home automatically owns the copyright to it.
  • Neighbouring rights

    In addition to copyright, there are ‘neighbouring rights’, also known as ‘related rights’. These rights protect the work of performers, music and film producers, and broadcasting companies. This protection is closely related to that offered by copyright, which explains why they are called ‘neighbouring’ or ‘related’ rights. Like copyright, these rights arise automatically, as is laid down in the Neighbouring Rights Act.
  • Trade marks

    Entrepreneurs can use a trade mark to distinguish their products or services from other products and services. Trade mark rights protect the names of products or services. They also protect a product’s logo and the design of its packaging. Entrepreneurs must register their trade mark if they want to protect it.
  • Design rights

    Design rights protect the designs of two or three-dimensional products. These include wallpaper patterns, textiles, and the design of household items such as alarm clocks, toys, and chairs. To obtain this form of protection a design must first be registered. It must also be new.
  • Database protection

    Original or creative databases may be protected by copyright. However, this does not apply to databases that consist only of collections of ordered data. Since building up such a database often requires a considerable investment, the producers of databases are protected by the Databases (Legal Protection) Act.
  • Trade name law

    Trade name law protects the name under which an enterprise does business. A trade name comes into being automatically, as soon as the enterprise starts operating. The owner does not have to register the trade name in the Commercial Register. The protection of trade names is regulated in the Trade Names Act.
  • Plant breeders’ rights

    Plant breeders can invoke plant breeders’ rights to protect their new plant varieties. These new varieties frequently result from long and costly breeding processes. The Board for Plant Varieties is responsible for granting plant breeders’ rights in the Netherlands. The Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture (also known as ‘Naktuinbouw’) first conducts an investigation and inspection to determine whether an application is admissible. If the results are positive, the Board grants plant breeders’ rights to the applicant.
  • Rights protecting design of computer chips

    There are also laws to protect the design of electronic circuits on computer chips (also known as the ‘topography of semiconductor products’). These laws protect circuits designed to perform specific functions.

You can find more information about intellectual property on the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl).

Multiple property rights protecting a single product

Some products may be protected by multiple intellectual property rights – for example under both trademark and copyright law.

Copyright Contract Act

The position of authors and performers under the law of copyright and neighbouring rights has recently been strengthened. The Copyright Contract Act entered into force on 1 July 2015. This act allows authors and performers to fully or partially terminate their contracts with publishers or producers. This applies, for instance, if an author wants to publish their work in digital form, but the publisher does not. The Copyright Contract Act amends the Copyright Act and the Neighbouring Rights Act.

Modernisation of copyright

As from 2015, catalogues, instruction manuals, timetables, theatre programmes and telephone directories no longer enjoy the protection of the Copyright Act. Copyright now applies only to texts that involve some creative input on the maker’s part.

See also