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Patents provide an appropriate means to protect intellectual property and inventive products against unauthorized production, use, import and offering for sale. By way of patents and patent applications, inventions in almost any field of technique can be protected against imitation, counterfeiting and product piracy.

Patent rights are created by way of official granting after having passed a substantive examination procedure. Patents are only granted by a respective patent office, if the claimed invention described in a patent application is new and involves an inventive step in view of the prior art. Starting from the filing date, patents can be maintained for a maximum period of 20 years.

Utility Models

In terms of their scope of protection utility models are almost comparable with patents. However, a German utility model is not examined and will generally be granted by the patent office as initially filed. Utility models can be branched off from pending patent applications and provide a 6-months grace period.


A trademark is a sign being capable of distinguishing goods and services of one enterprise from those of other undertakings. The main function of a trademark is to indicate the origin of related goods or services. By way of a trademark a consumer is enabled to recognize products and services of a particular quality.

A trademark confers on its proprietor an exclusive right to use the trademark and to prevent third parties to use, without consent, the same or a similar mark for identical or similar goods and/or services as those protected by the trademark. Trademarks can be obtained by registration through a trademark office, such like the German Patent– and Trademark Office (DPMA) or the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), acting as official trademarks and designs registration office of the European Union.

The registration procedure includes an examination on absolute grounds for a refusal. Generally, a trademark is registered, if it is inter alia not devoid of any distinctive character or does not have to be kept free for competitors. A Trademark registration is granted for a term of 10 years from the filing date of the respective trademark application. The registration can be repeatedly renewed for further periods of 10 years upon payment of respective renewal fees.

Industrial Design

Industrial Design protection is obtained by way of registration with a respective authority, like the German Patent– and Trademark Office (DPMA) or the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The design only provides protection if it is new and has individual character. Like a Utility Model, legal requirements for protection are not examined during the registration procedure.

Therefore, and in practice, a substantive examination of validity is typically conducted in the course of an infringement procedure. An application for Industrial Design is preferably filed on the basis of photos showing different views of the product to be protected. The photos should be suitable for publication in the Official Journal and should exclusively illustrate the product, as the scope of protection is strictly determined on the basis of the published illustration.

Act on Employees’ Inventions

The German Act on Employees’ Inventions (Gesetz über Arbeitnehmererfindungen (ArbEG) determines all rights and liabilities of employed inventors. The right to a patent or patent application is generally transferred to the employer unless the employer explicitly renounces said right.

In return, the employee may claim a separate remuneration