Intellectual property - Germany
Intellectual property rights
Industrial property rights
Intellectual property is protected by industrial property rights, which prevent any form of copying or imitation. These include:
- patents (protection of new technical inventions);
- utility models (protection of technical innovations, although this is purely a registration right as opposed to a patent);
- registered designs (protection of designs, patterns and models);
- trade marks (e.g. trade marks made up of words or images).
Copyright protection comes into force when a work is created; official registration is not necessary. The Copyright Act applies to works of literature, art and science.
The Employee Inventions Act sets out how employee inventions and proposals for technical improvement should be dealt with.
Intellectual property protection bodies
The central body dealing with industrial property rights is the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, or DPMA.
Combating counterfeiting and piracy
The fight against piracy and counterfeiting in Germany is maintained notably by the Act on Improving Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, implementing the EU directive on the enforcement of such rights.
The protection of intellectual property covers a broad range of different ministries.
Piracy, for instance, is an inherent part of bilateral economic dialogue between the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and major emerging countries, including China. The ministry's ‘industrial property in China’ working group devises measures with representatives of associations that are designed to protect intellectual property rights more effectively in China; businesses have the opportunity to submit concrete examples and complaints.
The protection of intellectual property is also addressed within the German-Chinese rule-of-law dialogue organised by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
In addition, businesses are also asked to take their own steps to combat piracy. A cross-sector joint initiative of leading industry and trade associations (the German Business Action Group against Productand Trademark Counterfeiting, or ‘APM’) was set up to provide help for businesses as well as information for consumers. At the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology’s suggestion, APM has created a China Contact Point specifically for businesses that face real difficulties with asserting their intellectual property rights in China. An online guide, ‘China Know-How’, offers practical tips for businesses, which can also obtain information by phone.
Property rights encourage investment in innovation and research.
The German Patent and Trade Mark Office is the central body for filing patents, utility patents, design patents and trademarks. Whether or not industrial property rights apply, and if so, which ones, depends on the rules governing the relevant rights and how the applicant intends to protect these. All industrial property rights can be registered online via DPMAdirekt.
A utility model offers protection for items such as technical innovations. Unlike a normal patent, however, it is purely a registration right, i.e. the utility model is entered in the record of utility models after registration (without prior verification of all substantive requirements for protection by the German Patent and Trademark Office). As a result, utility models are also approved considerably faster than a normal patent, but offer similar rights.
The German Patent and Trade Mark Office publishes a range of official publications:
- Patentblatt (patent gazette);
- Markenblatt (trademark journal);
- Geschmacksmusterblatt (registered design gazette);
- patent-related documents;
- registered design documents.
The German Patent and Trade Mark Office offers a wide range of services, including archives, documentation, registers, etc. in electronic format.
Check also the legislation on this topic in: