What are the criteria for patenting my invention?

You can protect your invention with a patent. A patent can be used to prohibit others from copying, selling or importing your invention.

What is a patent?

A patent is the exclusive intellectual property right to an invention of a technical product or process.

Protection of an invention

Patent rights protect inventions. If you have a patent, others are in principle not permitted to make, use, resell, rent out, supply, import or stock your invention, or offer it to someone else.

The Netherlands Patent Office receives 2,500 to 3,000 applications a year. Examples of patented inventions include the multifunctional pushchair that can be adjusted to diverse angles, the storm-proof umbrella Senz, the Senseo coffeemaker, the clap skate, and Dutch crispbakes (beschuit) with indentations.

Patent applications: the three criteria

Patent applications must satisfy the following three criteria:

  • Novelty

    This means that your invention must not have been made public – not even by yourself – before the date of the application.
  • Inventive step

    This means that your product or process must be an inventive solution. It cannot be a solution that would be obvious to a manufacturer. Take the example of a different attachment method. Instead of welding the tubes of a swing together, they might be screwed together. This may well be a new method of making swings. But for someone involved in making them, it is too obvious a solution to be called an inventive step.
  • Industrial applicability

    This criterion implies that it must be possible to actually manufacture the new invention. In other words, you can apply for a patent on a new kind of playing card that is easier to hold than existing cards. But you can’t obtain a patent for an idea for a new card game.

These rules are laid down in the Patents Act 1995.

Patents Database

If the Netherlands Patent Office grants the patent, the technology will be made public in the patent databases and registers. Companies can consult these to see if the technology they wish to develop has already been patented. They can also see which of their competitors are already doing research and development work on a particular technology.

Patent outside the Netherlands

A patent is a national right. You may also decide to apply for a European patent or for one that applies worldwide.

Applying for patent protection in the EU with a single application

From 2017 onwards, a single patent will apply to the Netherlands and throughout the EU. After this ‘unitary patent’ enters into force, separate patents will only be required for Spain and Croatia.

Getting a patent revoked

Someone who considers that your invention does not meet the criteria for a patent can try to have your patent revoked. These proceedings are heard by the district court in The Hague. This court must decide whether your patent does in fact fulfil the criteria, and whether it should be revoked or upheld.

Patent licence for the use of an invention

You can give others permission to make, sell or administer your patented product or process. Patent holders can grant such permission by issuing a patent licence.