A patent is an exclusive and temporary exploitation right for an invention and is granted by the government in exchange for disclosing the invention.
To obtain this right, the invention must meet several strict and cumulative conditions. The invention must:
be innovative, this means that the invention it is not part of the current state of the art technology or knowledge. On the date the application is submitted for the first time, it may not be known to the public, in any form (written, oral, usage);
be the result of an inventive step, this means that an expert does not see it as something obvious that arises from the current state of the art technology or knowledge;
be suitable for industrial applications: i.e., the object of the invention must be usable or producible in the relevant sector, including agriculture;
Therefore, the patent ensures that others cannot exploit your invention. If you as the patentee would not like to utilise the invention yourself, or only utilize it in certain domains, then you may negotiate licenses for usage that can generate additional revenue for your business. For companies owning patents, it may indeed sometimes be more interesting as a strategy for creating value than for securing an exclusive right of use.
Patent protection: procedures
Patent protection is not granted automatically. Therefore, you must request a patent.
You have the choice between
- a Belgian patent, if you only want protection for the Belgian territory
- a European patent, when you want protection in several European countries
- an international patent application, when you want to protect your invention outside of Europe as well.
Depending on the choice you make, you will have to follow a particular process, and, very importantly, be liable for higher or lower costs.
In Belgium, the Belgian Office for Intellectual Property (OPRI) of the FPS Economy is the point of contact for all these procedures. When a European patent is involved, the application can also be submitted directly to the European Patent Office.
- Before you begin with the procedures and spend money for the drawing up and submitting of a patent application, you have to first find out about the current situation. Maybe there is an existing patent that contains your invention either partially or fully, and which would then make the steps you are about to take redundant.
Conduct a novelty search in the online patent databanks such as:
- Esp@cenet (the complete text of the patents) (OPRI, FPS)
- The European Patent Register (EPO)
- EPATRAS (database with translations of other documents with respect to patents validated in Belgium)
Here it is also essential that you verify any existing protective measures.
- Get advice from a professional. Of course, you can draw up the patent application yourself and submit it to the competent authority. But a patent attorney or an accredited patent agent can offer valuable information when drawing up the patent, allowing you to maximise your chances of obtaining the patent. This person also knows the processes down to the smallest details and will assist you when you contact the authorities responsible for analysing your application.