A patent

A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an applicant for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention. It is important to realise that a patent right is not a right which allows the applicant to perform the invention, but a right to deny a third party from copying the invention.

What are the criteria for a patent?

In Europe, as well as in most other territories outside Europe, patentability is determined by novelty, industrial applicability, and inventive step:

1. Novelty: An invention is novel if nothing identical previously existed. How does your invention differ from what already exists?

2. Industrial applicability: An invention is useful if it produces an effect, if the effect is the one claimed, and if the effect is desired by society, at least in principle. This criterion is considered met if an invention has at least one possible industrial use.

3. Inventive step: Inventive step measures the degree to which an invention differs from the totality of previous knowledge, and the degree to which an invention could not have been anticipated from that knowledge. At the time it was conceived, why might your invention not have been obvious to people reasonably skilled in the field? Are there ways in which it might be an evolutionary step? What is the difference between the proposed invention and what has previously existed?

What is an invention?

Inventions include new processes, products, apparatus, compositions of matter, living organisms, or improvements to existing technology in those categories.

A process is a method of producing a useful result. A process can be an improvement on an existing system, a combination of old systems in a novel manner, or a new use of a known process. A machine is an apparatus that performs a function and produces a definite result or effect. It can range from a simple device to a complicated combination of many parts. A manufacture is an article that is produced and is useful. Compositions of matter include chemical compounds, mixtures such as drugs and, more recently, living matter.

Abstract ideas, principles, and phenomena of nature cannot be patented.

Procedure for a patent application

A patent procedure usually begins by submitting a Dutch, European or international (PCT) patent application. Within the first 12 months – the priority year – from submitting the first patent application, a new application may be submitted for another country or region on the basis of the first patent application.

Evaluating patent applications basically, two systems exist:
1. The examination system allows the patent granting authority to verify whether the application intrinsically complies with several requirements such as novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability. To this purpose the patent granting authority carries out the so-called searches to determine the state of the art.
2. In a so-called registration system, the patent granting authority will only verify whether the application meets the legal procedural requirements. Usually the patent granting authority does carry out searches although the outcome does not directly influence with the patent granting decision.
In the Netherlands a registration system prevails. Europe and the United States apply the examination system.

The timeline is below:

Time scale (years)



Patent application filed in NL; any modifications of the invention must be done within 12 months of filing. This period is crucial for adding value to the patent. 
If details of the invention are published or in any way made public before filing, the opportunity to patent is lost.


Potentially updated application filed; at this stage more data can be added to the invention; PCT system


Patent Application published with results of novelty search


Patent Examiner report received, the patent lawyer working with the TTO Project Manager, the inventor(s) and the examiner negotiate and agree the Patent claims


Patent is granted or refused individually in each of the designated countries


Patent renewal fees payable annually