Patent and utility patent law

Patents and utility patents protect inventions in the field of technology, i.e. the solution to a technical problem by technical means. The prerequisite for protection is that the invention is new and differs from the prior art by an inventive step. Both types of intellectual property rights are registered with the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) and valid for a maximum period of 20 years (patent) or 10 years (utility patent).

A patent application is examined by the relevant department of the German Patent and Trademark Office for its patentability. A utility patent in contrast is registered without examination. Its validity might only be examined in the course of cancellation proceedings after registration.

Patents and utility patents are national rights and must be obtained separately for each desired country. Currently, there is no such thing as an international patent. A first genuine international patent in the form of a Unitary Patent (UP) is planned in the form of a Unitary Patent (UP) for certain participating EU Member States.

For the Member States of the European Patent Organisation, patent protection can also be obtained through the European Patent (EP). For this, a European patent application passes through a common grant procedure at the European Patent Office (EPO), the executive body of the European Patent Organisation. Once granted, protection can be extended to selected Member States of the European Patent Organisation and some other contracting states. In addition to this European grant procedure, there is the PCT procedure, an international application procedure, at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which is to be followed by national or regional grant procedures. We are allowed to represent you directly in these procedures at EPO, WIPO and before the DPMA.

When patent protection is sought in other countries, we can provide support  through our network of carefully selected independent law firms in many countries around the world.

Trademark law

Trademarks have the function of designating origin, i.e. they serve to differentiate a product or service of one company from the product or service of another. Commonly, a trademark consists of words, logos, images or a a combination of these elements. On certain conditions, further kinds of trademarks such as packaging shapes, sounds, colors and – at least theoretically – scents are protectable.

To optain protection under trademark law, a trademark must be registered as a national trademark with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) in Munich, as an EU trademark (EUTM) with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in Alicante, as an International Registration (IR) with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or with other national trademark offices. The life-span of a trademark can be extended without limitation with the payment of renewal fees in certain intervals.

The owner of a trademark obtains an exclusive right. He also has a right to take legal action against someone who uses an identical or similar mark for identical or similar products and services, and whose right is younger.

Before submitting a new trademark application, it is advisable to research whether or not an identical trademark or a trademark similar enough to induce likelihood of confusion is registered. After a trademark application is submitted, a trademark monitoring can be set up in order to be informed of any new applications of identical trademarks or any trademarks similar enough to induce likelihood of confusion. In response to such later trademark application, an opposition can be filed within a certain period. Alternatively or additionally, an amicable solution with the applicant can be sought by negotiating a prior rights or coexistence agreement.

Design law

A design right also called industrial design protects the new and original appearance of a product. Protected by a design right is the form of appearance, meaning the aesthetic design but not the technical design.

To obtain design protection, a design must be registered as a national design with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) in Munich, as a registered community design (RCD) with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in Alicante, as an International Registration of Industrial Design (IR design) with the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) or with other national offices.

The owner of a design obtains an exclusive right. He also has a right to take legal action against someone who uses an identical or similar design, and whose right is younger. The prerequisite, however, is that the design is new (novelty) and has individual character.

These conditions are not checked by the patent offices. The owner must be able to prove that these conditions are met only when proceedings for infringement or nullity actions are filed. Before submission of a new design application, it is therefore advisable to research whether identical designs or designs similar enough to be confused are already registered.

In the European Union, there exists also a non-registered community design right. For a period of three years, a community design is also protected without registration within the European Union.

The period of protection for a registered design or registered community design can be extended to up to 25 years.

Copyright law

The copyright grants the owner the exclusive right to use the work. The owner may prevent reproduction, dissemination and publication, for example, by asserting his rights with a warning.

Many different works can be protected by copyrights. These not only include visual works such as pictures, paintings and photos, audiovisual works such as videos, but also written works such as books and newspaper articles, as well as audio works such as pieces of music.

Works of applied art such as pieces of furniture, toys and other items that also have a practical use besides their aesthetic effect can likewise enjoy copyright protection and are often the subject of warnings and court proceedings.

A copyright is created through completion of the work and it continues to be in effect for 70 years after the creator’s death.

Competition law

Competition law in Germany includes the law against unfair competition and antitrust law.

Competition regulations describe the rules of fair economic behavior that every business must adhere to in commerce. It serves to protect workers and consumers, and the interests of the general public in fair competition.

The fair competition regulations not only include protection for competitors, the prohibition of misleading information, protection from unreasonable disturbance, aggressive business practices, but also protection against imitation under competition law.

Product safety/Product liability

Manufacturers of technical products are not limited to ensuring the safety of their products during the steps of construction and production, and in drafting instructions. As part of their product monitoring obligation, they also have to check how their products fare on the market. Competition law is also a component of product safety. This is where executives and heads of development at the companies bear great responsibility.

We advise our clients on all aspects of product safety and product liability with our strong technical and legal expertise, and together with our clients we develop viable and reasonable solutions.

Data privacy

The right of people for informational self-determination has attained entirely new dynamics through the Europe-wide harmonized General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Citizens in a digitalized world are to regain full control over their personal data. Data protection authorities have received comprehensive powers to control and sanction to enforce the new rights and duties, and to implement the legislative intent. Businesses have reporting duties in relation to the data protection authorities.

The new rules present significant difficulties for businesses, because they must now fully satisfy all of the new data protection regulations in their processes after only a relatively short transition phase. The development divisions of the business must also observe the new data protection regulations in the new development of products, in particular if these are to be networked in the “Internet of Things”.

Principles concerned are such as the legitimacy of data storage, transparency, purpose limitation, data mining, storage limitation, integrity and confidentiality, and accountability. It must be clarified who owns the gathered data, where they are stored, how the owed information is provided, how data security is assured, who receives access to the data, and which particularities must be observed regarding external software.

Based on our technical and legal expertise, we train and consult in particular the development and sales divisions of our clients on questions relating to data protection. In networked systems we help to ensure that the products and services offered are legally compliant by means of customized contracts.

Related legal fields

We help you protect your business secrets and secure against a loss of know-how, negotiate licenses, and making your advertising legally compliant whether it is print, internet, broadcasting or social media advertising. We will also readily answer questions regarding CE-marking, internet presence and IT law,

employee inventions or questions concerning national or EU anti-trust law. The solutions that we develop take into account not only the subjects of intellectual property law but also those related fields.