Cooperation agreement and intellectual property

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Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

Are you working together with others to develop a new product or innovative technology? Then it makes sense to make proper agreements. For example, agreements about confidentiality, intellectual property rights, and profit distribution. You can use a cooperation agreement for this purpose.

Why a cooperation agreement?

If you have a good idea for a new product or technology, you do not want someone else to steal it. So, proceed carefully when looking for partners to collaborate with.

But misunderstandings can also happen between reliable partners. For instance, about what you share, who owns the intellectual property rights (IP), or how you divide revenues and costs. With a cooperation agreement you can avoid these misunderstandings.

What should be in a cooperation agreement?

What exactly should be in a cooperation agreement is different for every situation. There is no standard example of a cooperation agreement.

Important topics are:

- What do you want to achieve with the collaboration?

- Who contributes what knowledge and what knowledge do you develop together?

- Who pays what costs?

- How will profits be shared?

- Who gets the intellectual property rights and what do you arrange in terms of licensing?

- How do you deal with confidential information?

Read more about collaborating with a partner.

Also check the general rules for contracts and agreements.

Protect your idea with a non-disclosure agreement

You can often protect your idea with intellectual property rights. For example, with a patent for technological inventions or design rights for the appearance of your product. But this is only possible if your idea is recordable as a product or process.

Often, a collaboration starts before that. So, have your partners and other parties sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This puts you in a stronger position should they disclose or share information without your permission. If they do, you may be able to go to court.

Record your idea

You can also record your idea in the i-DEPOT of the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP). Your idea will then receive a date stamp. This is proof that you already had this information on that day. For example, do you want to share your idea with investors or collaboration partners? Then you can link an online NDA directly to your i-DEPOT. This way you have extra proof in case of a possible dispute.

The i-DEPOT only provides a date stamp that can be used as evidence in the event of a conflict. It does not protect your idea.

Moving forward together as a company

If you are going to work together for a long time, you can decide to set up a company together. You need to choose a legal structure that suits the collaboration. The most common legal structures for collaboration are:

See the overview of all legal structures.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO