Patent Law

What is a Patent?

A patent protects your technological inventions, i.e., innovative products or processes you do not want to see imitated by a third party.

The basic idea of patent protection is to reward the inventor for his innovation by granting him a monopoly for a fixed term and territory. But patents also provide important information and incentive: The publishing of a registered patent can entice third parties to come up with even more innovation.

The patent owner can make direct use of his invention to ensure an exclusive position on the market for the duration of the patent. Furthermore, patents can be sold or licensed in order to obtain a monetary gain.

Patents also play an important part in the field of technology transfer, research and development as they can help to find partners for cooperation in future undertakings, and to obtain easier access to public funding.

 

What needs to be considered when applying for a Patent?

Searches

In preparation of a new technological development, a search for prior art in technology needs to be carried out, if only to avoid expensive duplicate developments, but also in order not to infringe upon a third party’s rights.

Patentability

Generally speaking, inventions from all technical fields are patentable, provided that the following criteria are fulfilled:

Novelty

An innovation must be new, which means that it does not yet exist with regard to prior art in this field of technology. Prior art means all knowledge made public in any way prior to the patent application for this innovation. This also includes oral or written descriptions, usage in public, or the presentation at an exhibition or trade fair.

Information published by the inventor himself also counts among prior art, which is why the invention must by all means be kept secret before the patent application is made.

Inventive Steps

The development process must involve an inventive step, and the innovation being filed for patent must stand out against prior art to a sufficient extent. This prerequisite is critical whenever the innovation differs only slightly from prior art and actually suggests itself to the expert.

Commercial Usability

An invention must be usable for industrial purposes, i.e., it can be either produced or used in any field of engineering.

Technical Nature

An invention must be of a technical nature, even though a technical invention is not defined by law as this term is constantly being redefined by the scientific world. Non-patentable are discoveries, scientific theories, aesthetic creations, and species of animals or plants. There may, however, be other forms of protective rights applicable in these cases.

International Scope of Protection

Patents are only valid for the country in which they were filed. Patents applied for in Germany and filed with the German Patent Office are thus only valid in Germany. This is also true for every other country.

However, it is possible to initiate an independent patent registration process with the European Patent Office based on the European Patent Convention. But patents granted on the basis of this convention do not apply uniformly for all of its 36 member states; instead, once the European patent is filed, it disintegrates into separate national protective rights.

Another way to register a patent internationally is filing it under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT registration represents a bundle of several patent applications to be filed together. Later in the process, these will be split up into national registrations, leading to national protective rights in the end.

With an optimistic outlook into the workings of the European community, we expect to see a truly uniform European patent in the near future. However, at this point in time, the necessary international as well as national directives have not yet been passed by legislature.

Duration

As a general rule, a patent can only be protected for a duration of 20 years from its filing with the German Patent and Trademark Office.

 

How much does Patent Protection cost?

The cost of a patent varies highly, depending on each individual case and, above all, on the scope of a desired international protection. This is what can be said as a general rule:

Patent registration in Germany will cost between €2,000 and €3,000, including registration fees. A more global patent strategy to achieve protection in all major industrial nations, however, may well lead to six-digit numbers in cost. We will be glad to prepare your very own, individual registration strategy with you – just ask us for a quote!

 

What needs to be done in case of a patent infringement?

Monitoring

Once a patent is filed, it is the owner’s responsibility to protect it against infringements. This means that the market and competitors need to be monitored in order to keep tabs on any possible patent violation. Furthermore, it may be useful to monitor a specific competitor or a specific field of technology for new patent applications.

Measures

If a third party files a patent which infringes upon the scope of protection of an already existing patent, or if non-compliant products are found, you need to act quickly in order to protect your patent.

In the first case, you can file an opposition against the unwanted patent. In the second case, a cease-and-desist letter must be sent, and, if this does not lead to success, court proceedings must be initiated.

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