Intellectual property is the result of accumulated knowledge and creativity and forms an important component of a company’s intrinsic value. Besides enabling you to safeguard investments made in innovations, registering an IP right also allows you to discuss your ideas and innovations more freely, for instance when collaborating with a third party or when negotiating with investors. A pending patent or registered trademark often dissuades competitors from entering the same market and lets customers know you have an innovative or distinctive product. At NLO, we help tech companies protect their innovations.
Special skills for protecting innovations
Efficiently applying for a patent, trademark, or other intellectual property right requires skills combining technical know-how, legal expertise, and experience.
Our specialists have uniquely mastered these skills, defending the interests and innovations of leading companies in the Netherlands and around the world.
Through our offices in the Netherlands and Belgium, where we house Dutch, Belgian, European, and U.S.-qualified patent attorneys and trademark attorneys. Through strong relationships with agents worldwide, we can provide global protection and advice at the same high quality as local offices.
Dedicated technology teams
We have five dedicated teams in the fields of mechanics, physics, telecommunications, and software. Here, more than 30 patent and trademark attorneys closely follow developments in these fields and work with leading companies. They have ample expertise in fields of technology such as electronics, aerospace, medical tech, automotive, and computer science.
Our patent attorneys speak the language of the sector and use their knowledge and experience to optimally advise you and support your patent applications.
In Europe and many other countries, mere software as such is excluded from patentability. For historical reasons, software is regarded as written source code which can only be protected by copyright.
However, many electronic products nowadays have digital functionality, and machinery is often electronically controlled. Due to increasing importance for industry, obtaining patent protection is often desirable. In Europe and around the world, it has been recognized that excluding these products or methods from protection would block innovations and be detrimental to industry.
Therefore, in many jurisdictions, it is possible to patent so-called computer-implemented inventions.
In general, a computer-implemented invention relates to a device — such as a desktop computer, a dedicated processor, or a controller — with a functionality that is implemented by a software component.
Under the present regulations, the European Patent Office (EPO) carries out a number of tests to determine whether a software-based invention merely relates to software as such or is eligible to be patented.
In addition to the regular tests for novelty and inventive step, the EPO tests whether the computer-implemented invention describes an actual implementation of a product or method, rather than just an abstract idea.
Functionality and patents
The EPO further checks whether the functionality of the software goes beyond mere automation of a known process. Obviously, software instructions have the property that a computing device that executes these instructions shows electronic activity. Mere automation of a known process which causes such electronic activity generally is not eligible to be patented.
Functionality that creates a physical effect beyond obvious electronic activity can in many cases be regarded as a patentable invention. For example, a physical effect might be the generation of an electromagnetic signal with specific properties, a specific manner of controlling of a mechanical device, or a method for sensing or imaging.
A well-known example is the “slide to unlock” function on a smartphone in which a finger drawn gesture on the screen of the smartphone unlocks it. The European patent for this functionality has been a source for some disputes between Apple, Samsung and Google. (After litigation, the European patent was invalidated basically for being obvious in view of prior art.)
Another well-known example is a controller for injecting fuel into an internal combustion engine. The controller has a memory with instructions for controlling the amount of fuel that is to be injected into the engine. Here, the controller and the combination of an otherwise known engine equipped with such a controller was found patentable.
Expertise at NLO
Our patent attorneys have knowledge and experience to protect software-based inventions. They can advise and assist with drafting a patent application for a computer implemented invention that meets requirements and overcomes the exclusion hurdle.
Should you wish to know more about trademarks or patents in general, or about patents for computer implemented inventions, the attorneys at NLO would be happy to assist. You are welcome to make an appointment at one of our offices in The Hague, Ghent, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, or Ede.
More information about NLO can be found at www.nlo.eu.