Patents are not issued for every invention. Inventions must be of a technical nature. Random ideas, discoveries, theories (e.g. mathematical or scientific theories), data presentations, managerial methods or methods for mental labour and the like cannot be patented. Furthermore, inventions must be new, innovative and industrially applicable in order to be patented. These elements will be explained below.
Novelty: the invention was not known prior to the filing date of the patent application, anywhere in the world, in any form (lecture, article, trade fair presentation). The information revealed by the inventor himself may also affect the novelty of an invention. Thus patent applications must always be filed before the invention is presented. Once an invention has been disclosed, it can no longer be protected.
Inventiveness: the invention is not obvious to experts. This is a subjective concept. In patent granting procedures, the question whether an invention is inventive frequently leads to discussions between the inventor and the patent granting authority. An unexpected result is usually considered an argument for inventiveness.
Industrially applicable: the invention must have a useful result. In daily practice, this requirement hardly ever presents a problem. One of the main requirements for filing a patent application is that the invention must be new. On the Internet, there are a number of websites which allow you to search patent databases to find out what inventions already exist. Several links are available on our website (www.nlo.eu). You may search on keywords in titles or patent abstracts, or on the name of the patent owner, the inventor, the publication number or date. We recommend the following websites:
• nl.espacenet.com and/or www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/ for European and international applications (PCT patent applications).
• www.uspto.gov for US patent applications.
Furthermore, the Dutch government also provides information and services on patents on a smaller level. Take a look at the website of The Netherlands Enterprise Agency for more information.