We have often been asked whether we wanted to apply for a patent for our product. People then warned us that the IP process costs a lot of money, is a waste of time and that it is not of much use.
They are partly right. Suppose you are a startup and you have submitted an application and received a patent, then you are not there yet! You also have to actively protect your patent, which means that you have to continuously scan the market for companies that are infringing your patent, and if that is the case, you have to challenge them. You understand that if it's David (startup) against Goliath (big tech, conglomerates), you're never going to win in court. However that being the case, the patent gives you the right to force others to stop copying your invention!
You cannot prepare for the scenario above because it is beyond your control. For us, there were plenty of reasons to apply for IP. First, investors think it's important. We are going to raise money for our growth within a year so we'll need them. A patent is also recognition that you have created something truly innovative. Millions of patents have been issued and yet you have created something new, which is significant! It also holds marketing value and can give your sales an extra boost. In short, a patent provides sufficient value. But how much does it cost?
Before I get into the costs, the general rule with patents applies: if you're going to do it, do it right. Do not write an application yourself, because then the document will not be watertight. You want a good patent lawyer who fully understands your product and who can also process future applications in the current application document.
A tip from us: do your own preliminary research. This saves time and costs, and is not very difficult.
You do preliminary research in Espacenet, the international search page for patents. If you are not familiar with Espacenet, let the RVO (Rijksdienst Voor Ondernemend Nederland) do a first exploration for you free of charge, so that you can then search further with their results. In Espacenet you basically search for 3 things: keywords (what your product is and can do), company names (competitors) and classification numbers (every product or category has a certain number). With these three you frame your search and you'll search within the right space. This will give you get the best results.
The search results will be a list of competing products. Click on the Title of your competing patent, read the abstract and take a good look at the pictures. If you think it resembles your invention: then delve further into the relevant document. Is it similar to your invention? Write down the similarities and differences in Excel, and include the URL link so you can find it again. If you would have this work done by a lawyer, it will easily cost you 1500 euros (excl. VAT). If you do this yourself, it might take you a day.
The filing of the patent application must be done by a registered patent lawyer no matter what. The costs for this in combination with preparing and writing the application document will cost you approx. +/- 5000 euros (excl. VAT). But for that money you are the proud owner of a Dutch patent!
Good luck with your IP.