Protection of intellectual property and trade secrets

Inventors, designers, developers and authors can 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. It also gives them an opportunity to earn back the money they invested in developing a product.

Types of intellectual property rights

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

  • Patents
    Patents protect an invention or a technical product or process. 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. Copyright 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.
  • Trademarks
    Entrepreneurs can use a trademark to distinguish their products or services from other products and services. Trademark 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 trademark if they want to protect it.
  • Design rights
    Design rights protect the appearance 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 rights
    Databases consisting of collections of ordered data may be protected by database rights. This includes official publications on and statistical data on the website of Statistics Netherlands (CBS). Building up such a database often requires a considerable investment of time and money. That is why the producers of databases are protected by the Databases (Legal Protection) Act.
  • Tradename law
    Tradename law protects the name under which an enterprise does business. A tradename comes into being automatically, as soon as the enterprise starts operating. The owner does not have to register the tradename in the commercial register. The protection of trade names is regulated in the Tradenames 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. First the Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture (also known as ‘Naktuinbouw’) 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.
  • Semiconductor topography rights
    Semiconductor topography rights protect the design of electronic circuits on computer chips (also known as the topography of semiconductor products). These rights protect circuits designed to perform specific functions. You can apply for semiconductor topography rights (chip rights) to the Netherlands Patent Office.