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Dutch parliament approves new Patent Act

On 3 July 2007 the Dutch parliament (House of Representatives) approved of changes to the Netherlands patent act (“Rijksoctrooiwet 1995”). It is expected that the new patent act will enter into force by the beginning of 2008.

Several changes will be entered into the new patent act. Four of the most relevant are:1. Under the new patent act it will become possible to file Dutch patent applications in the English language. Only a translation into Dutch of the claims must be filed. This change in the patent act is independent of the London protocol for European patents, of which it still is unknown when it will come into force, since France has not ratified.
2. The Dutch patent office wants to provide a cheap search report. It is said that the patent office is going to provide high quality searches for one hundred Euro. These searches will probably include a “written opinion”, similar to current European patent office practice. It is, however, unknown whether this search will be regarded by the EPO as sufficient to incur a refund of search fees for later EP-applications.

3. The “annuities clock” for Dutch patents will start ticking a year earlier than it does now. At present, the first annuity is due four years after filing date. This will be decreased to three years from filing date.

4. Abolishment of the “small patent”. The small patent, with a duration of only six years, is currently granted without novelty search to keep costs low. The original goal of the small patent was to stimulate SMEs to file patent applications. However, it is now believed that the legal uncertainty arising from this unsearched patent does not balance with the possible positive effect for SMEs. Therefore, the small patent will be abolished.

The changes have to be approved by the Dutch Senate, which is expected to take place within several months. The new patent act will probably enter into force by the beginning of next year. Because filing in English is made possible and the search report is very cheap, it is to be expected that many foreign applicants will start using the Dutch system for filing a priority application.