vrijdag 21 oktober 2016

Patent tip: The forcefields of a patent

The three forcefields of a patent

In order to serve the purpose of a patent, being the reward for the patent holder and the recognition for the inventor, a patent document consists of three forcefields. In fact, a patent is a legal document, governed by a legal forcefield, providing a monopoly in an economic forcefield for an invention, being the result of the inventors contribution to a technical forcefield. 

What is the relevance of these force fields, well each part of the patent document reflects one of these forces. 

The economic forcefield: the front page

The frontpage reflects the economic indicators, as who is the patent holder, for which country is the patent granted, who is the inventor, and when was the patent granted, so till when is it potentially a valid right.

The technical forcefield: the specification

The description reflects the technical information sufficient to understand and work the invention. In this part of the patent, typical inspiration can be found for further development and it can be inspected what technical developments certain market players are working on. 

The legal forcefield: the claims

The claims are the demarcation clauses for the legal protection, claimed by the patent holder to be his exclusive right. 

The fourth forcefield: Sales

In order to be a success, well the underlying invention or technology need to be sold. And this is a strongly underestimated forcefields by most inventors, about 3% of all patents is commercially successful in the sense that profit is generated, sufficient to cover all costs, including the costs of the unsuccessful ones. 

I wish you all happy inventing!

Hendrik de Lange Dutch and European patent attorney

PS: In the below video, a presentation (in Dutch, soon to be subtitled) on this topic is given. 

woensdag 21 september 2016

Patent Tip: What are patents actually?

In the following video, I will give an interpretation of what patents actually are: A reward for the patentee and a recognition for the inventor. This video is available as newsletter.

Be the first to receive new video presentations about various aspects of patents by subscribing in the right hand side column! 

I wish you all happy inventing, 

Hendrik de Lange
Dutch and European Patent Attorney

dinsdag 30 augustus 2016

Patent tip: Global patent cooperation

Some statistics on patents

If we plot for each year the numbers of granted Dutch patents for the last century against the GDP per person, the following image emerges:

Here a positive correlation appears between wealth and patent numbers. Whether it reflects a causality, is a more difficult question to answer. However if we look at some of the most influential countries on the planet, all of them, no exception, show a positive correlation between wealth and number of patents:

A larger patent number relates somehow to an increased wealth. With this knowledge in mind, if we plot Dutch patent statistics from the last two and half century, a neat historical fingerprint emerges:

In this fingerprint, we see the devastating effects of the French occupation, of the split up of Belgium and the Netherlands, of the patent free era and, much to my surprise to a lesser extend, of the German occupation during world war II. As far as the number of patents is concerned, it can be concluded that -not surprisingly- a foreign occupation is bad news, as is the split up of a country. Cooperation, such as the start of the European Patent Office is good news, as can be seen in the rising numbers from 1977 onward. Remarkably, throughout the last 265 years, the filing numbers grew on average with a 3,5% per year as indicated by the orange (excel fitted) line.

Cooperation gears up wealth

Early patent applications in the Netherlands, roughly from the 16th century up to 1780 could be filed for individual provinces. From 1780 onward, only patents were filed for the combined provinces, the so called "Staten van Holland". Here the level of cooperation gradually stepped up from a provincial level to a country level. The cooperation further stepped up, about a century later, around 1883 when some basic international recognition of foreign patents was agreed upon in the Paris Convention. Yet another century further in time, in 1977, the European Patent Office started. It had begun granting patents for some cooperating European countries and gradually became the patent authority for the entire European continent. In line of this development a new level of cooperation is likely to take place, where the next level is unavoidably global. While the European unitary patent is still in its fragile pre-birth pregnancy state, it will sooner or later form the template for a global patent.

A global patent

To my opinion, it is only a matter of time until we have such a true global patent. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the organisation most likely to guide us there, has already been established in 1893. Ever since, the WIPO is enhancing global cooperation for all kinds of intellectual property, including patents. The Patent Cooperation Treaty, now only codifying for a joint patent application procedure, is the most likely candidate to be adapted to codify for a global patent as well. It has been in force since 1978. Till now 150 states are member of this treaty, almost the entire globe:

A global patent, Yes it may take another century until it is actually here, and yes it will be good news for all of us. And I cant wait to learn where the global patent court will be seated, hopefully it is announced before I die and hopefully it is a truly centralized court in one location only.

I wish you all happy inventing,

Hendrik de Lange
Dutch and European Patent Attorney

donderdag 28 juli 2016

Patent tip: In which innovation to invest?

Commercially successful inventions are rare

The chances that you find a commercially successful technology by randomly picking a patent from say the Espacenet database of the European Patent Office, is about 3 percent. This means that about 97 percent is commercially unsuccessful. Why are these numbers so depressingly low? Well it resembles a statistical law of nature. If we look at the DNA of the human body that is actually coding, it appears to be 3 percent as well, meaning that 97 percent is junk. The commercial selection of innovation appears to be much like the natural selection of successful "properties".

The "junk" stuff however does serve a purpose, if it wasn't there, both in nature and in innovation, the good 3% would not be able to exist. And still the "junk" may provide for insights that later on become slightly twisted or applied in a different technical field, commercially successes.

How to judge inventions before they have proven to be successful? 

In selecting inventions from an investor point of view, two factors make all the difference. If both these factors are absent, the invention is likely to commercially fail. If one or both factors are present, the invention has a high chance of becoming commercially successful.

Factor 1: The innovator solves a problem at existing, paying clients

The innovator is a person working for company having clients in a specific field of business and the person sees a specific problem at the client, and provides a solution. Since the company already has clients in the very field of technology of the invention, most likely some of the clients are willing to try the innovation and actually may be willing to pay for it. 

Factor 2: The innovator is dying to have the innovation himself

The innovator is dying to have the proposed innovation himself. The innovation thus finds a intrinsically motivated person, that is wanting to solve a problem he is confronted with. This innovator most likely is a private person, but can also be a group of people eventually be a group of people within a company. 

These factors are no guarantee for success, yet a great filter to select the most promising innovation to invest. To inventors: if you find none of these factors resonating in your invention, please be careful not to spend to much resources on that specific invention.

I wish you all happy inventing!

Hendrik de Lange
Dutch and European patent attorney

zondag 3 juli 2016

Patent tip: Are patents good for us?

On the Wipo website [1], some neat patent statistics are published, from 1980 onward for all countries in the world. If we plot the figures of the granted patents in some of the globe's most influential countries against a their national wealth indicators, in this case the GDP per person in 2005 $ ppp (obtained from the Gapminder database [2]), the following plot emerges:

In all these countries, a positive correlation exists between the number of granted patents and the local wealth. Apparently inventing and protecting is not only good for the patent stakeholders, also good for the economy at large.

Good to consider when arguing against the patent system.

I wish you all happy inventing,

Hendrik de Lange
Dutch and European patent attorney


[1] WIPO IP Statistics Data Centre: http://ipstats.wipo.int/ipstatv2/index.htm

[2] Gapminder:  https://www.gapminder.org/data/

dinsdag 29 maart 2016

Patent tip: obscure publications

Sometimes disclosing an invention is a way to prevent others from being able to patent it. But the publication also makes competitors aware of the invention. This dilemma has led to the so called obscure disclosures.

Obscure disclosures are available to the public, yet nearly impossible to find. There are numerous possibilities in obscure disclosing, of which I will give you some to consider.

The non tech local newspaper

This  used to be the trick in obscuring disclosures, however more and more newspapers, even local ones are being scanned and becoming digitally available.   

The uncommon foreign language 

If the local newspaper is still to open to the public, it might be sensible to translate the invention to a less available language, and then have it printed in the local newspaper. It may be odd, that inside a local newspaper, suddenly a technical document in for instance a native African or native American local language is published.  

The obscure library

A book or a magazine, delivered at a department library of an unrelated university sub department may also do fine. If your invention is for instance about making cheese, submitting a paper at a library of aerodynamics will render this publication by nature hard to find.   

The third parties observation

A very efficient, yet greatly unknown trick is filing a (preferably hand written) third party observation at the European Patent Office in a patent that has already been granted. The office has to attached the observations to the file and make it publicly available. Yet if the invention is about making cheese and the documents are added to a file concerning nuclear fusion reactors, no-one is going to find the cheese related docs soon.

The reason to submit the documents hand written, is because more and more the documents filed at the European patent office are scanned and the characters are optically recognized and made available in searchable documents. Hand writings are simply a lot harder to make searchable. 

Be careful 

Be however careful, that the obscured document is not so obscure, that in fact no-one can find it, no matter how hard they try. Than the obscured publication, may after all not be a publication at all.

I wish you all happy inventing,

Hendrik de Lange
Dutch and European patent attorney

zaterdag 30 januari 2016

Patent tip: Patents are good for us!

In the World Economic Forum, this interesting image was shown [1,2]:

Each dot is a country, ordered in global competitiveness ranking versus IP protection ranking. Not surprisingly a country with a good IP protection system in place is more competitive.

The fall back in competitiveness of the Netherlands during its patent free era is further proof of the beneficial effects of a good IP system [3].


Patents are good for us!

I wish you all happy inventing,
Hendrik de Lange

[1] Ideas Matter:

[2] Global Competitiveness Report, Klaus Schawb

[3] http://octrooifabriek.blogspot.nl/2015/06/patent-tippatents-contribute-to.html