Commercial Property Rights
Patents / Utility Models
are industrial property rights granted for technical inventions (machines, devices, equipment and their parts, chemical products, manufacturing or application processes, ...), which grant the owner an exclusive right of use and disposal and are, thus, an important prerequisite for successful protection against unauthorized imitations by third parties. Pure computer programs (algorithms or similar) are not eligible for patent or utility model protection, they are only protected by copyright.
Patents are granted for inventions after filing a request for examination at the DPMA (German Patent and Trade Mark Office), if they are a worldwide novelty, are based on an inventive step and are industrially applicable. Unlike a patent, a utility model only requires an inventive step and does not protect processes or uses.
In contrast to a patent, a utility model is an unexamined right. It is only examined when someone files a request for cancellation.
The maximum term of protection of a patent is 20 years, with annual fees paid annually. The maximum term of protection of a utility model is 10 years, with renewal fees due after 3, 6 or 8 years.
serve to distinguish goods and services of one company from goods and services of other companies. They act as a "business card" and "quality mark" for the companies and serve as a guide for the consumer in the market.
Word and/or figurative signs, sound signs, three-dimensional designs, colours or other signs capable of being represented graphically can be protected as trade marks.
No protection is granted to signs or designations which merely describe the goods or services to be designated by reference to their nature, quality or other properties resp. characteristics. The novelty of a trade mark is not examined at the DPMA; each applicant should arrange for this on his own responsibility before filing an application.
The initial term of protection of a trade mark is 10 years and can be extended for further 10 years as often as required, subject to payment of a renewal fee.
allow for the protection of designs (aesthetic forms), i.e. entire commercial products or parts thereof, in surface or spatial form (e.g. fabrics, furniture, tableware, toys, jewellery, technical devices, etc.). Graphic symbols, typographic characters, packaging or equipment, but not computer programs, are also protected as registered designs.
Designs must be new (i.e. the design may not be known at the time of application), reproducible and have a creative character. However, novelty and individual character are not examined before entry in the design register. Only in the event of a dispute will the design be examined by civil courts.
The entry is initially made for 5 years and can be extended up to four times for 5 years each, up to a maximum of 25 years.
Topographies (Integrated Circuit Layout Design Protection)
are three-dimensional structures of microelectronic semiconductor products, e.g. memory chips or processors. After filing a request directly at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office in Munich, they are entered in a corresponding register, the roll for topographies, for a maximum of 10 years. This is only concerned with the geometric design, the technical function or the material structure of the semiconductor product are irrelevant. A topography can only be protected if it has a so-called "individual character". However, the Topography Department of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office does not examine this requirement for protection upon registration. Similar to a utility model, semiconductor protection rights are thus unexamined rights. An examination only takes place when someone files a request for cancellation.
The documents of protected topographies can only be inspected directly at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office in Munich.
Plant Variety Protection
protects the intellectual property of new plant varieties and are thus applicable for the breeding progress in agriculture and horticulture. A breeder or discoverer of a new variety can apply to the Federal Plant Variety Office for plant variety protection on the basis of the Plant Variety Protection Act (SortG) for varieties from the entire plant kingdom. After examination by the Federal Plant Variety Office a plant variety protection is granted. A plant variety is eligible for protection if it is new, distinguishable, homogeneous and stable and at the same time is designated by a registrable variety denomination. The duration of the plant variety protection is usually 25 years, but for hops, potatoes, vines and tree species it is 30 years. The effect of the plant variety protection is that only the holder of the plant variety protection is entitled to market, produce or import propagating material (e.g. plants and parts of plants including seeds) of a protected variety for commercial purposes; in other words, he acquires an exclusive right of use.