Patents protect new technical inventions. They confer to their owners a territorial monopoly right for a limited period. The patent owner alone is entitled to exploit the invention. He can prohibit unauthorised commercial use of the patented invention. Patents allow to derive economic benefits from inventions.
In return, the patent owner has legal duties. By filing a patent application he agrees to the publication of his invention. Thus, a patent can serve as a standard for other inventors and as a basis for further developments in the relevant field of technology.
Patents play an important role in business decision-making processes. Searching patent literature may help to avoid expensive and unnecessary duplication of research and development. Patent searches also help you to avoid the risk of infringing other patent rights.
The patent portfolio of a company showcases its innovative potential and economic capacity. Patents show strategies and development trends. They are an important factor in the evaluation of companies. Patent searches are the key to unlocking this vast wealth of knowledge.
When you file an invention at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, this does not automatically create a patent. Your invention will only be patented after a legally-prescribed procedure has been conducted and concluded with a positive result. The exclusive right of use and the right to prevent others from using the invention come into effect with the grant of the patent.
A granted patent has a (retroactive) effect from the date of filing for a maximum period of 20 years. Special provisions apply to inventions in the field of pharmaceuticals and plant protection products. After expiry of the maximum period of protection, protection of patents may be extended, under certain conditions, for up to five years by supplementary protection certificates and for a further period of up to six months in case of recognised studies on medicinal products for paediatric use (paediatric extensions).
The rights conferred by a patent that was granted by the DPMA can only be asserted in Germany. All IP rights including patents are subject to the principle of territoriality and only have effect in the country for which they were granted. It is of course possible to seek protection for the invention in other countries. For more information please see Patent protection abroad.
These pages summarise the basic facts about patents. For this reason, they contain simplified and generalised statements. It is not possible to present all patent issues here in an exhaustive and authoritative manner. For more detailed information please see the fact sheets published by the DPMA or, in case of doubt, the legal texts. The legal basis for patents is laid down in the Patentgesetz (Patent Act) and the Patentverordnung (Patent Ordinance).
© 2014 Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt | Last updated 30/10/14