1. What is a German patent?
A German patent is a right for technical inventions which confers on its proprietor an exclusive right to an invention. Any third party is prohibited to manufacture, to offer, to place on the market, to use or to import the patented subject-matter without the consent of the patent holder.
The term of a German patent is 20 years.
The protective effect of a German patent or a patent application is limited to the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany.
2. What may be subject to patent protection in Germany?
German patents are granted for technical inventions which are new, involve an inventive step and are susceptible of industrial application. Consequently, basically all technical devices and methods may be subject to patent protection, provided that they are of a technical nature.
In contrast to that, the following subject-matter is excluded from protection: Discoveries and scientific theories and mathematical methods; aesthetic creations, schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts and the mere presentation of information regarding games or business methods, and computer software, provided that the German patent application relates to such subject-matter or activities “as such”.
In the field of computer programs there has developed a special legal practice referring to software patents. According to the latest jurisdiction, the crucial point to determine whether software related subject-matter may be regarded as an invention is the presence of a “technical character”. More information about software patents can be found in the menu software patents. You may also contact Mr. Keilitz who is one of our German patent attorneys working in our Munich office, or simply give us a call or send us an email.
3. How do I apply for a patent in Germany?
A patent application can be submitted at the German Patent and Trademark Office (GPTO). The documents of the patent application must include: A description, patent claims, drawings (optional) and a summary. In addition, within 15 months after the submission of the patent application (or the priority date) the inventors have to be declared to the office. Further information can be found on the website of the German Patent and Trademark Office and in particular in the “Guidelines for patent applicants“.
4. What happens after filing?
Provided that a request for examination has been filed together with the patent application, the GPTO examines patentability of the invention and in this connection, in particular the requirements of novelty and inventive step. If no request for examination has been filed, the GPTO stays inactive until the request for examination has been filed. The request for examination has to be filed until the end of the 7th year after the filing date.
An invention is new, if it is not part of the state of the art. The state of the art shall be held to comprise everything made available to the public by means of a written or oral description, by use, or in any other way, before the date of filing of the patent application.
If the subject-matter of the patent was already well-known to the public before the application or priority date, the application is rejected for lack of novelty.
An invention shall be considered as involving an inventive step if, having regard to the state of the art, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art.
For example, if the claimed subject-matter may be derived from a combination of two prior art documents relating to the technical field of the invention, the Patent and Trademark Office will normally assume a lack of inventive step.
In this case it is necessary to limit the scope of the independent claims by incorporating one or more additional technical features. If the claimed subject-matter of the amended claims satisfies the requirements of novelty and an inventive step the GPTO will issue a German patent.
5. How much does a German patent cost?
In addition to the official fees, attorney fees for preparing the application documents and for filing the patent application fall due. The fee for preparing the application documents depends on the effort involved. Please contact us for an individual offer.
After filing the patent application, additional costs incur in connection with the examination and granting procedure.
If you have any questions about German patent applications, we are pleased to advise you. Please feel free to call any one of our European Patent Attorneys in Munich. We will do our best to get you started with your patent application in Germany.