My knowledge, your knowledge?

The Dutch aviation industry is powered by knowledge and innovation. From luggage handling to composites, Dutch companies are innovative leaders on many fronts. However, most aviation company business plans fail to prioritise the protection of their innovative knowledge. Knowledge protection hinges on several important questions. Such as, which technological innovations should be protected, and how do you arrange that protection? What about protection for intellectual property rights in the event of collaboration with another company? Also, what should you do when contributors leave your company, taking their knowledge with them? Below, the Netherlands Patent Office offers three practical tips to help you protect your knowledge.

Tip 1. Have a sound intellectual property rights strategy in place.
There is no fixed formula for protecting your knowledge. Whether it is better to impose a confidentially obligation or apply for a patent depends on your company’s business plan. It is wise therefore to think about how you will protect your completed project early on, during the innovation or creation process. Think about what you want to protect, in which countries, how long you want to protect it and at what cost, and what steps you want to take against counterfeiting.

Thinking about applying for patent? You can do so if you have invented a technology that is new, innovative and has an industrial application. However, you should only apply for a patent if it fits your business plan. For instance, because it will give you a strong negotiating position when seeking collaboration partners or investors. Think carefully about the countries in which you want the patent to apply. Choose countries in which you want to actively implement your invention, or countries in which you can profit from licensing it.

* Want to learn more? You can find a clear overview of all the protection options – from brand and design rights to patents – in the ‘Intellectual Property Rights Compass’ (animated or PDF)

Tip 2. When collaborating, make clear and timely agreements on intellectual property rights.
Are you planning to collaborate and have your collaboration business model ready? Then now is the time to make arrangements for the intellectual property rights that will arise out of your project. These are decisions that need to be taken at the management level, so don’t leave this discussion up to developers.

In most situations the intellectual property rights arising from collaborations are placed with one of the parties. This could take the form of a joint private limited company, for instance, in which participants hold shares. You could also choose to assign ownership to the party that will enjoy the biggest commercial benefit and be best able to tackle violations (counterfeits, etc.). In return, the parties that are not owners of the intellectual property could require the right of use in their market segment or geographic area.

* The ‘Patent Guide for Collaboration Partners’ provides pointers on how to arrange intellectual property rights in collaborative ventures.

Tip 3. Establish what is confidential, both within and outside your company.
Have you contributed confidential company information for a project? Then it’s important to draw up a contract. Establish which party will be responsible for securing what information, as well as what kind of information can be shared, with whom and how. Lay down in writing what will happen if a partner does not follow these rules. Also agree restrictions on use to ensure the company secret is used only for the intended purpose.

It’s also important to ensure that your own contributors know which information is secret. Educate them on how to handle company secrets. Don’t forget to include competition clauses and confidentiality clauses in your employment contracts, and specify the consequences of any breach of confidentially.

* Want to talk – confidentially – to a patent advisor at the Netherlands Patent Office about confidentiality? Phone 088 – 602 66 60.

The Netherlands Patent Office: more than just patents
The Netherlands Patent Office is the distributor of patents in the Netherlands. Business owners can apply to our office to obtain a patent in the Netherlands. They can also get free and impartial information from our regional patent advisors to help them determine the best course of action. The Netherlands Patent Office is part of Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl). For more information, visit  www.rvo.nl/octrooien.