Creativity and innovation are important for our economies, our societies and our futures.
Creative innovations can in general be protected by intellectual property rights, also called IP rights such as copyright, trademarks, designs registrations and patents.
Technical innovations or inventions can often be protected by a patent.
In Europe this can either be a European patent or a national patent, eg Belgian, German or Italian. In order to avoid misunderstandings: an international patent does not exist. Patents are national legal matter, and a European patent is the closest one gets to an international patent
I order to obtain a patent you need a patent attorney.
A patent gives the applicant the right to exclude others from commercializing the invention, so that only the applicant can profit from the invention. The maximum duration is usually 20 years.
Patent application and prosecution
If you want to protect your invention, your innovative idea, you need to file a patent application. Handling these is a specialized legal domain, usually handled by patent attorneys.
Patent law has become so complex that it is in practice impossible to obtain effective protection for your idea without the help of a patent attorney.
He can advise you on the best way to obtain protection, will draft the application documents for you and deal with both the formal and substantive correspondence from the national or European patent granting authorities, like the EPO.
He/she will also handle the other formal requirements, such as fee paying, and will keep track of deadlines.
In order to become a patent attorney, a university level technical or scientific education is required in order to be able to understand and discuss the clients’ invention, followed by a number of years of legal training, concluded by the dreaded European Qualifying Exam EQE.
You can freely discuss your idea with a patent attorney. He or she is legally bound to secrecy, just like a lawyer or medical doctor is.
For a period of nine months after grant anybody can file an opposition against a European patent. This is much cheaper than seeking revocation in the various national courts across Europe.
However, such a procedure has a strong legal aspect. For this reason the services of a European Patent Attorney during opposition are indispensable during an opposition. Opposition legal services can be found here.
After grant, legal issues around infringement may arise. Or you may be faced with somebody else’s patent, possibly hindering your business. Also in such cases a patent attorney is a reliable counselor who will look after your interests.