Search Menu
    • Patents

    Which inventions are eligible for patent protection, and which are not?

    Inventions in which exterior design is important are not covered by patents, but by design right. Where the emphasis is on presenting information, the invention is covered by trademark rights or copyright (e.g. software, including accounting systems). However, the name of a software package is, in turn, covered by trademark rights. Inventions which are non-technical fall outside the scope of patent law. Furthermore, the invention must not conflict with accepted moral principles or be personally offensive. Surgical techniques (methods) are not patentable (although the equipment certainly is patentable). Websites and web shops are not patentable.

    Seven features of ideas eligible for patent protection

    1. 1. Your idea is commercially attractive

    You must expect to be able to earn money from your idea. Whether by selling your idea, selling the end-product deriving from your idea, or licensing your idea, you must have a feeling that you will be able to recover your investments (including in the patent). Preferably you will already have the broad outlines of a business plan ready.

    1. 2. Your idea is still a secret

    If you are applying for a patent, your idea must still be a secret. You must not have made your idea known anywhere. By the time you disclose or discuss your idea anywhere, it is actually already too late. Do you still want to talk about your idea with a third party? Then use a secrecy undertaking. It is better if you have already filed a patent application before doing this. That offers the most security.

    1. 3. Your idea is a product (or improvement on a product)

    You can protect a technical product by a patent. The word ‘product’ must be broadly interpreted. It may be a machine; a component used in a machine; or a consumer product. Your idea may also be an improvement of an existing product. Practically everything you can physically handle can be protected by a patent.

    1. 4. Your idea is a process (or improvement on a process)

    As well as a product, you can protect a technical process. A ‘process’ means a specific way of working. It consists of a number of steps which are carried out, leading to a given end-result. Those steps may be carried out by a person or by a machine. Think of it as a kind of recipe, in which a number of stages in the cooking lead to a dish. The same principle holds good: it may be an improvement of an existing process.

    5. Your idea can be made
    For both the product and the process, the principle is that it can be made or applied. It does not matter if you do not yet have a prototype as long as, in theory, it can be made. A frame for a bicycle with a different, special shape can, in theory be made. This becomes less plausible for an anti-gravity machine or a time travel device, unless you can demonstrate that your idea works! In most cases, the idea will not be a problem to realise or implement.

    1. 6. Your idea is unique

    An important condition for obtaining a patent is that your idea must be unique. The idea must be different from everything else known on the subject, worldwide. It is important to be able to consider the idea as a whole. It does not matter if individual elements of the idea are already known. In 99% of cases, all(!) elements of the idea are already known. But the idea is unique because it combines these elements in a unique way. Just a slight difference from existing products or processes is sufficient to make it unique.

    1. 7. Your idea is better than existing products/processes

    There is another, important condition for obtaining a patent. That is that the uniqueness of the idea also ensures an improvement. The idea offers a technical advantage. Your idea can do something better than existing products or processes, simply through the presence of the unique component or the unique stage. For example, your idea is easier to make or cheaper. Your idea might be stronger or faster. Or it might be easier for a user to use.

    Related Questions

    Would you like to discuss the possibilities without any obligation?

    Please contact one of our attorneys