What can a patent attorney do for you?
A patent attorney can help you protect your inventions by applying for patents or other kinds of protection, and by maintaining and managing that protection. A patent attorney will also advise you about how to deal with other parties’ patent rights: challenging a patent, taking a license or amending your invention so that it is no longer affected by a competitor's patent.
Applying for a patent
First of all, the patent attorney will verify whether your knowledge, product or idea can be protected at all:
- Are there alternative solutions available?
- Is the idea new and inventive?
- Does your product have a characteristic appearance?
- Does the idea potentially infringe other patents?
He or she will then verify whether protection is advisable for you:
- How likely is it that your invention will be used by others?
- Can infringement easily be detected and challenged?
- Does the invention have a high commercial value?
Depending on the answers to these questions, the patent attorney will advise you whether a patent or a design or trade mark registration is the most appropriate form of protection, or whether perhaps keeping your invention secret, publishing it or arranging copyright protection for it would be a more effective option.
Managing your patent portfolio
Once you have been granted a patent you will have to make strategic choices: for what period of time do I want to protect my invention? How am I going to exploit the patent: by licensing, selling, or cross-licensing? The patent attorney’s knowledge and experience will help you make the right decisions.
Enforcing your rights in case of infringement
Whether or not a competitor is infringing your patent is something you will have to monitor yourself. It is advisable to inform the infringing party that they are violating your rights and ask them to stop their activities. In some cases this already suffices: the infringement may have been a mistake or someone was hoping that you would not take any action. If not, you can litigate or try to reach a settlement. In this situation it is best to consult a patent attorney to find out how strong your patent right is and what the most (cost-)effective approach would be to find a solution. You will often also need to involve a lawyer, in case the situation results in a lawsuit.
Challenging or circumventing another parties' patents
Does another parties’ patent threaten to prevent you from using and selling crucial products or processes? In this case a patent attorney may attempt to prove that the patent is invalid, either by an opposition procedure or in the national court. Alternatively, the patent attorney may advise you to amend your product or process so that it is no longer affected by the patent rights held by your competitor.
Advising on licensing agreements
A patent attorney has knowledge and experience to help you conclude a good licensing agreement. As an example, some companies are still paying for a licence for the Dutch market, based upon a patent right that turns out not to be valid in our country. This means that they could have used the invention in any case, without concluding an agreement.
Protecting know-how in case of cooperation
Nowadays, companies and knowledge institutions are increasingly working together on R&D projects. In those situations, patent attorneys are able to ensure that clear arrangements are made regarding intellectual property and the distribution of the results of the joint R&D project.