During the recent Brightlands Business Club event on Intellectual property, we got the chance to listen to 3 experts in the field.
Rene Janssen, a patent advisor for the Netherlands Patent Office in the region of Limburg, explained the strategic choices that entrepreneurs need to take regarding Intellectual Property. NPO is the Dutch patent-granting authority. First of all, you can check in databases what the competition has filed and if your invention is patentable, and even if it is a good idea. The patent literature is vast, and many ideas are described there. This will help to build a solid business case. He explained how you can use a patent to prevent others from using your technology. Or license your technology to others. Patents can also be used to add value to your company (e.g. for future investors). For startups, it helps to gain credibility. But sometimes it is better to keep your technology a secret.
Jaap Renkema, who started IPecunia Patents after a 20-year industrial career at DSM, explained what happens if you do decide to file a patent. All the milestones, and the costs, that are important in the 20 years between the filing date and expiration date. The costs are considerable and are linked to choices that need to be made along the way. Especially the number of countries where you want to uphold the patent. If you are ambitious, the total cost can exceed 200 kEUR. Jaap also told that the patent literature is a fountain of knowledge, but also contains a lot of crap. And he warned us to always check our Freedom to Operate. It would be a pity if you had a great idea but someone else has patented it.
Finally, we listened to Petra Herkul, who established her own trademark agency Hercules Trademarks B.V. and works at the Global Trademarks Center of DSM. She explained the differences between patents (20-year duration, expensive) and trademarks (infinite, cheap) and also how you need to file trademarks for certain classes. You can have Ajax fire extinguishers next to Ajax cleaning fluids. But similar to patents, you have to do it country by country. And note that having a URL is not the same as having a trademark.
Our heads filled with useful insights into this (for some) new world, we headed outside to the beach of Panheel, for a well-deserved BBQ. It was so good to see everybody in real life again.
Strategic IP-choices: protect, discover and or keep secret? by René Janssen / Octrooicentrum Nederland
What do you need to obtain a patent? by Jaap Renkema / IPecunia Patents
“What’s in a name…” by Petra Herkul / DSM Intellectual Property