When it comes to innovative entrepreneurship, Eindhoven is regarded as one of the hotbeds in the Netherlands. However, start-ups in this region do not always pay sufficient attention to IP, notes patent attorney Johannes van Melle. “A patent helps to bolster your position, whatever the situation.”
Van Melle frequently works with start-ups operating from the Brainport region Eindhoven: “Start-ups often require capital to be able to grow. In these cases, investors will almost without exception look at the opportunities for patent protection. Aside from this, building a brand name and developing distribution channels simply requires a great deal of time and money. Working with partners, licensing an innovation to a third party or using a takeover by a larger company as an exit strategy offer faster and less risky routes to achieve a return. In each of those cases, a patent will provide a much stronger position than a confidentiality agreement could.” Van Melle has some practical tips for innovative start-ups where patents are concerned.
Quality does make all the difference
Lower quality patent applications will often entail higher costs than a high quality application. Van Melle: “Don’t just focus on the hourly rate in the application phase, but consider the skill and expertise of the patent attorney above all.” When preparing a patent application, a professional patent attorney will have a keen eye for three crucial elements:
1. The wording of the claims: if the scope is too broad, the risk is that the claims will not be granted; too narrow a scope could mean the patent can easily be circumvented. You must ensure you get the appropriate professional support when formulating the claims.
2. The comprehensiveness of the patent application: the saying ‘first-time-right’ is especially true for patent applications. You must take a comprehensive approach. If the wording of the application does not adequately cover the different elements of the invention, you will not be able to amend this at a later stage.
3. The merits of the idea: patents are at their most valuable when they protect the essence of the invention, whereas patents that describe an embodiment offer a great deal less protection. That is why it is advisable to protect the essence of your invention in the research phase, using a patent application. Do not delay the application until the product development process has been concluded.
V.O. has developed routes specifically aimed at start-ups, which enable them to obtain a high quality patent application with international coverage. The packages offer increasing levels of flexibility, consultancy and assistance throughout the international patent application procedure. Van Melle: “V.O. guarantees the quality of the claims in the patent application for all its packages. In each case, we also provide advice with regard to the patent proceedings that take place after the international phase.’
Staf Depla, alderman for Economic Affairs in Eindhoven, affirms that a start-up’s ability to recognise the value of its intellectual property is crucial for its chance of success: “A sound business will not only concern itself with technological development, it will also be looking at opportunities for collaboration and the opportunities offered by its intellectual property rights. Start-ups play an important role in the Brainport region Eindhoven. They keep driving the economy forward, with new ideas, business models and strategies. A sophisticated strategy to protect their intellectual property contributes to this. We very much encourage start-ups in our region to work towards a healthy economic future. This could create 2500 jobs over the next five years. And that will benefit everyone.”
8 misconceptions about patents
1 – I will document my discovery in a preliminary description for now. I will add the detail at a later time.
2 – I still have the option at a later time to add or change elements in my patent application.
3 – Prior to publication, there was no time to submit a patent application. I will take care of that at a later time.
4 – I have not obtained a patent yet. The engineering phase will offer plenty of opportunities for that.
5 – I will prepare the entire patent application myself in order to keep costs down.
6 – As a small business, I think a small patent attorney’s office is a better fit for us.
7 – I will compare the hourly rates and pick the cheapest one.
8 – At the outset, the cost of a patent application is always unclear.