Investigate how to expand your IP rights
There are international procedures for applying for patents, and for protecting trademarks and designs. Investigate first if it makes sense to protect your product innovation in other countries. Do you have unregistered IP rights, such as copyrights? Check which rules apply in the export country. Also, consider the product requirements and legislation per country.
How much does intellectual property protection cost?
Expanding your IP rights costs money. Both national and international agencies charge for registration. Use the Cost Calculator for the protection of Intellectual Property (in Dutch) to calculate the costs of a patent, trademark, or design. This tool gives answers for the Netherlands and other countries.
Consult national IP registers
It is possible that someone abroad already has an IP right for your technology, brand, or design. If you market your product there, you are breaking that IP right. Always check the national IP registers before marketing your product internationally. For patents, look in the international patent database Espacenet and in national patent registers. For brands, consult the database TMview. And for designs, look at DesignView.
Protect your IP for all of Europe
You can often register trademark rights and design rights for the entire European Union in one go. It is different with patents. You can apply for a European patent, but when that patent has been granted, you must choose specific countries. Then the national taxes and translations of your chosen countries apply.
After the European patent has been granted, you can also choose a unitary patent. That patent applies to 17 countries at the same time: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden.
A unitary patent can be financially attractive if you want to apply for a patent in at least 5 member countries. There is 1 procedure with 1 translation, and you pay maintenance tax once a year.
Nothing changes for countries that are not (yet) affiliated with the unitary patent. So consider if your unitary patent should be supplemented with separate national registrations for countries that do not participate. For example, Spain or the United Kingdom.
Do you need help with your choice between a unitary patent or a European patent with separately selected countries? An infographic by the Netherlands Patent Office (in Dutch) sets out some of the key choices to consider.
Also non-EU countries can apply for a European patent and then a unitary patent. You may need to use an approved representative.
Beware of the exhaustion of European IP rights
Your product may not be traded or produced without your permission in a country where you have an intellectual property right. But have you put your product on the market somewhere in Europe? Or has someone else done this with your permission? Then it can be freely resold within Europe. Also to countries where you have IP rights. This is called the exhaustion of intellectual property rights and applies to all IP rights.
Determine how you export
There are 2 ways to export your intellectual property product. You can export the product yourself. Or you can license your product to a party in another country. With this licence, you give another person permission to make and/or sell your invention on the local market. This way you earn money from foreign markets that you cannot or do not want to enter yourself. Make clear agreements about the terms of the deal, and write everything down in a licence agreement.
Find a licensee for your patent
Do you want to find a licensee for your patent? Then you must first complete the ‘Declaration of willingness to license’ (Verklaring licentiebereidheid, in Dutch) form for each patent. You find this declaration on mijn.rvo.nl. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) will then include your patent in the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) database.
This network will then search for possible licensees in more than 60 countries. In the various patent databases, you can also indicate that you wish to grant licences.
Consult an adviser
Do you need help or advice? The patent advisers at the Netherlands Patent Office can provide tailor-made support (in Dutch). For example, help with searching for patent information, workshops, conversations, and webinars. For questions about the protection of your trademark or design, please contact the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP).