chapter patents

Overview Development and origin of patent applications

bar chart: Patent applications at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office 2018-2022

Year Patent applications
2018 67,905
2019 67,429
2020 62,109
2021 58,573
2022 57,214
Patent applications at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Compared to the decline during the coronavirus pandemic, the number of patent applications (applications with the DPMA and PCT applications in the national phase) stabilised slightly. With 57,214 applications in 2022, the number decreased only by a moderate 2.3%. These high application numbers show how important patents are for companies.

By far the largest part of the patent applications received, namely 50,209 applications, were filed directly with our office. 7,005 applications entered the national phase as PCT applications filed in accordance with the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva.

A further increase in online applications by 2.3 percentage points shows that our electronic services are popular. The share of online applications thus increased to 90.8% of all national patent applications filed.

At the end of 2022, 142,659 national patents were in force, i.e. 5.9% more than in the previous year.

Last year, the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) concluded 45,498 patent procedures and, with 23,592 published grants, improved the previous year’s figure by 11.7%. Consequently, the number of patent grants was the highest in more than 30 years. Granted patents make companies more attractive for investors and strengthen their competitiveness.

In 2022, the proportion of procedures concluded by the grant of a patent (grant rate) rose to 51.9% (2021: 43.5%). In 9,299 cases (previous year: 10,326), the application was refused – this corresponds to a proportion of 20.4% of concluded procedures (2021: 21.3%).

12,607 of the examination procedures were terminated because the applicant failed to pay the fees or withdrew the application, representing a proportion of 27.7% of concluded procedures (previous year: 35.2%).

In 2022, there was again a decrease in applications received from applicants having their domicile or principal place of business in Germany. In total, these applicants filed 37,194 applications for a patent (-6.6%). This means that the percentage of applications from Germany fell to 65.0%. This decrease might be explained by a structural change in innovation activity that particularly affects the German economy: While the number of patent applications from electrical engineering continued to increase, the number of patent applications from mechanical engineering and automotive decreased strongly. In these two fields, German applicants are traditionally very strong.

By contrast, the number of patent applications from abroad increased by 6.8% to 20,020 (2021: 18,746).

Last year, 3,502 applications came from European countries (2021: 3,372) and 16,518 from non-European countries (2021: 15,374).

Compared to the previous year, there was an increase of 22.4% in applications from Italy. The number of applications from Sweden (+12.5%), Austria (+10.9%) and France (+7.0%) also increased.

The number of applications from China increased by 23.6%. Applications from the Republic of Korea (+5.0%) and Japan (+3.4%) slightly increased, too. The number of applications we received from the United States rose by 16.2% compared to the previous year.

Patent aplications in 2022 by countries of origin (applicant’s seat or place of residence) (national applications at the DPMA and PCT applications in the national phase)
Countries of originApplicationsPercentage
United States6,84712.0
Republic of Korea1,6362.9

The patent applications from Germany can be allocated to individual German Länder according to the residence or the principal place of business of the applicant. Since 2019, the German Länder ranking had been led by Baden-Württemberg with 13,444 applications (-0.9%), followed by Bavaria with 10,548 applications (-11.2%), which again came second in the ranking. With 5,292 applications (-6.7%), North Rhine-Westphalia came third.

With 2,792 applications (-6.5%), Lower Saxony took fourth place. Bremen (+2.9%) and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (+79.6%) were the only German Länder to achieve an increase in applications. As regards the remaining German Länder, there was a decrease in applications compared to the previous year.

If the cursor is moved over the chart, it shows the patent applications in 2022 and the applications per 100,000 inhabitants as well as the change in percent per German Länder (applicant’s seat or place of residence).

Patent applications by German Länder in 2022 Map German Länder Munich Jena Berlin Hesse 1,202 -18.7 % 19/100,000 inhabitants Hamburg 375 -19.0 % 20/100,000 inhabitants Bremen 105 +2.9 % 16/100,000 inhabitants Brandenburg 228 -11.3 % 9/100,000 inhabitants Berlin 480 -8.7 % 13/100,000 inhabitants Bavaria 10,548 -11.2 % 80/100,000 inhabitants Baden-Württemberg 13,444 -0.9 % 121/100,000 inhabitants Lower Saxony 2,792 -6.5 % 35/100,000 inhabitants North Rhine-Westphalia 5,292 -6.7 % 30/100,000 inhabitants Schleswig-Holstein 427 -10.1 % 15/100,000 inhabitants Saxony 592 -2.0 % 15/100,000 inhabitants Saxony-Anhalt 122 -20.8 % 6/100,000 inhabitants Saarland 137 -23.0 % 14/100,000 inhabitants Rhineland-Palatinate 804 -6.1 % 20/100,000 inhabitants Thuringia 470 -10.5 % 22/100,000 inhabitants Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania 176 +79.6 % 11/100,000 inhabitants
Applications per 100,000 inhabitants and patent applications in 2022, broken down by German Land (applicant’s seat or place of residence)

bar chart: Patent applications by German Länder in 2022, applications per 100,000 inhabitants

German Länder Applications per 100,000 inhabitants
Baden-Württemberg 121
Bavaria 80
Lower Saxony 35
North Rhine-Westphalia 30
Thuringia 22
Hamburg 20
Rhineland-Palatinate 20
Hesse 19
Bremen 16
Saxony 15
Schleswig-Holstein 15
Saarland 14
Berlin 13
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania 11
Brandenburg 9
Saxony-Anhalt 6
Germany 45

If we compare the filing figures to the respective numbers of inhabitants, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria were again in the lead with 121 applications and 80 applications respectively per 100,000 population. Lower Saxony (35) and North Rhine-Westphalia (30) came in third and fourth, respectively.

With 3,946 applications, Robert Bosch GmbH again led the ranking of the most active patent applicants in 2022. With 1,394 applications, ZF Friedrichshafen AG took third place, thus relegating Schaeffler Technologies AG & Co. KG, with 1,266 applications, from third place in the previous year to fourth place in 2022.

With 1,228 applications, Mercedes-Benz Group AG took fifth place, whereas Ford Global Technologies, LLC rose from seventh to sixth place (1,204 applications). With 1,109 applications, GM Global Technology Operations LLC, which came in nineth in the previous year, took seventh place in 2022, followed by VOLKSWAGEN AG on eight place (1,041 applications).

The individual companies and institutions are shown in the form in which they appear as patent applicants –— possible intra-group affiliations are not taken into consideration.

Last year, 5.2% of our applicants filed more than ten applications each (2021: 4.5%). This means that 71.3% of all applications were filed by this group of applicants, referred to as large patent applicants.

In the case of applications from companies and research institutions, a distinction is basically made between the organisation filing the application and the inventor as a natural person. However, in the case of employees with released inventions or in the case of independent inventors, the applicant and the inventor are usually identical. In 2022, the applicant and the inventor were identical in 4.7% of the applications (2021: 5.6%).

The International Patent Classification (IPC) is used worldwide as a standard for classifying technological contents. A number-and-letter code organises the entire field of technology in more than 70,000 units. At the DPMA, every patent application is attributed to one or several IPC classes according to its technological content and forwarded to the examining section in charge at our office.

Top 5 Fields of technology  
Patent applications in 2022
(According to WIPO IPC concordance table, available at:

bar chart: Top 5 Fields of technology 

Top 5 Fields of technology
classesPatent applicationsChange compared to 2021
32 - Transport 10,329 -1.6%
1 - Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy 7,317 +1.9%
10 - Measurement 4,290 -4.5%
31 - Mechanical elements 3,601 -11.9%
6 - Computer technology 3,472 +19.5%

In 2022, despite a decrease by 1.6%, the technology field “Transport”, with 10,329 applications, again ranked first among the top technology fields in terms of filing activity. A large proportion of applications came from the automotive industry.

With 7,317 applications (+1.9%), the technology field “Electrical machinery and apparatus, energy” again ranked second, once again followed by “Measurement”, which came in third, with 4,290 applications (-4.5%).

In the electrical engineering sector, the field “Computer technology” experienced the biggest increase (+19.5%), which was certainly due to the increase in digitisation and in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The strong technology field “Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy” also continued to increase (+1.9%), also because considerably more patent applications for batteries were received.

By contrast, there was a sharp decline in some technology fields in the mechanical engineering sector: Applications in the field “Engines, pumps, turbines” decreased by 17.9%. In this context, the foreseeable loss of significance of the internal combustion engine was certainly an important factor. Even in the traditionally very strong technology field “Mechanical elements”, our office received significantly fewer patent applications (-11.9%). And there was a decline in applications relating to medical technology (-11.2%), which is part of the sector “Instruments”.

The number of filed requests for the examination of patentability pursuant to section 44 of the Patent Act (Patentgesetz) amounted to 43,126 and thus stabilised at the previous year’s level.

Within the scope of such a request, the patent examiners identify the relevant state of the art by conducting a comprehensive search. Subsequently, an examination is conducted as to whether the subject matter of the application is new, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable and whether exclusions from patentability possibly exist. Further criteria, for example sufficient disclosure, must also be met. The examining section can then decide whether and to what extent a patent can be granted or whether the application must be refused.

If an applicant wants to have the patentability of their application assessed without initiating an examination procedure, they can file a search request pursuant to section 43 of the Patent Act. The result of the search is often the basis for the decision of whether to file additional applications with other offices. In 2022, the number of search requests slightly decreased by 2.5% to 14,592.

In 2022, 2.3% fewer searches pursuant to section 43 of the Patent Act were concluded and 14,818 search reports were sent out.

Selected data on patent procedures
patent procedures20182019202020212022
Examination requests received 47,135 47,347 43,351 43,346 43,126
- including requests filed together with applications 26,203 26,003 23,391 22,693 22,661
Search requests pursuant to section 43 Patent Act 15,680 15,843 14,244 14,967 14,592
Concluded searches pursuant to section 43 Patent Act 14,240 14,943 16,451 15,172 14,818
Examination procedures concluded 38,111 40,189 41,764 48,504 45,498
Examination procedures pending at the end of the year 220,490 227,262 228,442 222,962 220,174

Parties can file an appeal against a decision – a patent granted not as requested, a refusal of the patent application or a decision in opposition proceedings. The Technical Boards of Appeal of the Federal Patent Court will then decide on such appeal. In 2022, contrary to the trend in the past years, we saw a considerable increase in appeal proceedings brought before the Technical Boards of Appeal: A total of 280 appeal proceedings were received, representing an increase of 127.6%. By contrast, the number of concluded appeal proceedings fell by 24.7% to 235. At the end of 2022, a total of 412 appeal proceedings were still pending at the Federal Patent Court.

Bereich Patente

In Focus Selected fields of technology


In 2022, the number of patent applications concerning digitisation again increased considerably in almost all sub-sectors. For our analysis, we took into account the applications published by the DPMA and the European Patent Office (EPO) with effect in Germany. Patent applications are published after 18 months. Compared to the previous year, the number of applications in the five selected fields of technology — audio-visual technology, digital communication, computer technology, IT methods for business management and semiconductors — once again rose by 7.4%. In particular, there was a significant increase in applications from the United States (+15.9%).

As in the previous year, the technology field “Computer technology” took first place. With 16,844 applications, this sub-sector once again saw the most considerable increase (+8.6%). Of great importance in this field are, especially, systems for image data processing, speech recognition and information and communication technology. The majority of applications concern innovations that use artificial intelligence or machine learning.

Computer technology2,3
Patent applications effective in Germany 1 by country (residence or principal place of business of the first applicant)
Country 2021 2022Change compared
United States 5,938 6,789 +14.3 %
China 2,022 2,298 +13.6 %
Germany 1,828 1,794 -1.9 %
Japan 1,581 1,596 +0.9 %
Republic of Korea 1,059 1,010 -4.6 %
Others 3,077 3,357 +9.1 %
Total4 15,505 16,844 +8.6 %

1 Applications published by the DPMA and the EPO avoiding double counts.
2 According to WIPO IPC concordance table, available here. IPC classes valid at the time of retrieval counted proportionately; without claim to completeness; results may be included that do not relate to computer technologies.
3 G06C, G06D, G06E, G06F, G06G, G06J, G06K, G06M, G06N, G06T, G06V, G10L, G11C, G16B, G16C, G16Y, G16Z.
4 Due to rounding differences, the values added together deviate from the total.

In 2022, applications concerning digital communication increased by 8.2% to 16,368 in total. Accordingly, this field of technology once again took second place. Many of the applications focus on wireless communications networks, the transmission of digital information or what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). The digital communication field also includes inventions relating to the new 5G technology. Such innovations enable, for example, the communication of machines, control devices and sensors as well as remote control. In companies, the use such systems for intelligent process and production control (“smart factory”) is now commonplace. In many households, too, these technologies are being used for the remote control of electrical appliances (“smart home”).

Digital communication2,3
Patent applications effective in Germany 1 by country (residence or principal place of business of the first applicant)
Country 2021 2022Change compared
United States 4,113 4,912 +19.4 %
China 4,286 4,635 +8.1 %
Republic of Korea 1,174 1,284 +9.4 %
Sweden 1,266 1,260 -0.5 %
Japan 1,338 1,258 -6.0 %
Others 2,954 3,019 +2.2 %
Total4 15,132 16,368 +8.2 %

1 Applications published by the DPMA and the EPO avoiding double counts.
2 According to WIPO IPC concordance table, available here. IPC classes valid at the time of retrieval counted proportionately; without claim to completeness; results may be included that do not relate to digitisation.
3 H04L, H04N 21, H04W.
4 Due to rounding differences, the values added together deviate from the total.

The audio-visual technology sector was the third largest, with 5,972 applications received (+6.8%). Location-independent working schemes are one reason why an increasing number of people use audio and video conferencing systems. The audio-visual technology field also covers applications concerning virtual reality. Thanks to virtual reality, simulations of surgical interventions can be carried out or driving lessons can be taken, for example for training purposes. With virtual reality glasses, users can immerse themselves in a virtual world and make journeys without having to physically leave their home. The combination of digital and physical life is referred to as augmented reality. Special glasses or a smartphone camera are used to show users virtual information in their physical environment — for example virtual markers during the transmission of a football match to visualise the distance to the goal before a free kick is taken.

Audio-visual technology2,3
Patent applications effective in Germany 1 by country (residence or principal place of business of the first applicant)
Country20212022Change compared
United States 1,220 1,461 +19.8 %
China 1,044 1,199 +14.8 %
Japan 1,007 973 -3.4 %
Republic of Korea 598 669 +11.9 %
Germany 619 575 -7.1 %
Others 1,102 1,095 -0.6 %
Total4 5,590 5,972 +6.8 %

1 Applications published by the DPMA and the EPO avoiding double counts.
2 According to WIPO IPC concordance table, available here. IPC classes valid at the time of retrieval counted proportionately; without claim to completeness; results may be included that do not relate to digitisation.
3 G09F, G09G, G11B, H04N 3, H04N 5, H04N 7, H04N 9, H04N 11, H04N 13, H04N 15, H04N 17, H04N 19, H04N 23; H04N 25, H04N 101, H04R, H04S, H05K.
4 Due to rounding differences, the values added together deviate from the total.

Compared to the previous year, we also saw a considerable increase (+7.4%) in the technology field “semiconductors”. Applications primarily focused on semiconductor components and solid state electrical components or assemblies of components. The use of semiconductors is crucial for making fast-progressing digitisation possible in all fields of application.

Patent applications effective in Germany 1 by country (residence or principal place of business of the first applicant)
Country 2021 2022Change compared
United States 879 1,095 +24.6 %
Japan 1,006 1,071 +6.5 %
Republic of Korea 782 770 -1.5 %
Taiwan 683 611 -10.5 %
Germany 644 585 -9.2 %
Others 1,086 1,325 +22.0 %
Total4 5,080 5,457 +7.4 %

1 Applications published by the DPMA and the EPO avoiding double counts.
2 According to WIPO IPC concordance table, available here. IPC classes valid at the time of retrieval counted proportionately; without claim to completeness; results may be included that do not relate to digitisation.
3 H01L, H10B, H10K, H10N.
4 Due to rounding differences, the values added together deviate from the total.

In this field of technology, there was again a slight decrease (-2.9%) in applications to 2,588. Innovations in this field describe services such as reservations and event bookings, for workflow control, for corporate or organisational planning and for materials or inventory management. Applications also concern networked mobility such as autonomous driving. The networking of an increasing number of end devices, control systems and machines generates very large amounts of data (big data). These data can be processed and stored in a decentralised way by using what is known as cloud computing. Many servers, storage media, databases and analysis options are made available via the Internet for this purpose.

IT methods for business management2,3
Patent applications effective in Germany 1 by country (residence or principal place of business of the first applicant)
Country 2021 2022Change compared
United States 984 960 -2.4 %
Japan 361 403 +11.6 %
Germany 375 338 -9.9 %
China 131 142 +8.4 %
Republic of Korea 102 124 +21.6 %
Others 711 621 -12.7 %
Total4 2,665 2,588 -2.9 %

1 Applications published by the DPMA and the EPO avoiding double counts.
2 According to WIPO IPC concordance table, available here. IPC classes valid at the time of retrieval counted proportionately; without claim to completeness; results may be included that do not relate to digitisation.
3 G06Q.
4 Due to rounding differences, the values added together deviate from the total.

Renewable energy sources

The development of climate-friendly technologies is very important for German companies, in particular in the German market. For this reason, we have carried out an analysis of the patent applications with effect in Germany published by the DPMA and the EPO that concern renewable energy sources and battery technology as the central storage technology.

As regards solar technology and other regenerative energy sources such as geothermal energy and biogas, Germany took first place in the application number ranking. As in the previous year, Denmark leads the ranking for wind generators, which represent the field of technology with by far the most applications filed; Germany came in second. In the sub-sector “hydropower, waves and tidal power”, the ranking was led by the United States, again followed by Germany. In 2022, as in previous years, we saw a slight decrease in published patent applications concerning renewable energy sources (-2.4%). Solar technology, however, continued its slight upward trend (+5.0%). The continuation of uncertain economic and political framework conditions could be one reason why there has been stagnation in the past seven years. Nevertheless, renewables are among the most important power sources in Germany; the federal government’s aim is to develop renewables as a central pillar of the energy transition.

Development of patent applications effective in Germany 1) in selected fields of renewable energy

Development of patent applications effective in Germany in selected fields of renewable energy as bar chart

Fields of technology ² 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Solar technology ³ 983 768 624 498 477 455 463 415 424 445
Wind generators ⁴ 779 648 579 491 509 540 602 638 583 531
Hydro power, waves, tidal power ⁵ 92 80 62 69 56 52 54 38 26 34
Geothermal energy, biogas, other energy sources ⁶ 151 145 140 111 92 85 85 87 83 79

1 Applications published by the DPMA and the EPO avoiding double counts.
2 IPC classes valid at the time of retrieval counted proportionately. Without claim to completeness. Results may also include other uses.
3 B60L 53/51, C02F 1/14, E04D 13/18, F03G 6, F24J 2, F24S, G05F 1/67, H01L 31/04 to H01L 31/078, H02J 7/35, H02N 6, H02S.
4 B60L 53/52, F03D.
5 F03B 7, F03B 13/10 to F03B 13/26.
6 C02F 11/00, C12M 1/107, C12M 1/113, C12P 5/02, F03G 3, F03G 4, F03G 7/00 to F03G 7/08, F24J 3, F24T 10, F24T 50, F24V 40, F24V 50, F24V 99.

Briefly explained: The PCT System One single application, international protection

Would you like to protect your invention internationally? Thanks to the Patent Cooperation Treaty, it is possible to obtain protection in up to 155 countries on the basis of one single patent application. New regulations make the PCT System even more appealing.

Illustration Weltkugel und Schutz, Foto: bortonia/

The Patent Cooperation Treaty or PCT is a treaty under international law with more than 155 Contracting States which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Rather than filing several separate applications on national and regional levels, applicants can obtain patent protection in many countries with one single international patent application under the PCT System. The application procedure consists of two phases: The international phase starts with the filing of a PCT application with a “receiving Office”. An International Searching Authority then carries out a search for the relevant prior art. During the subsequent national/regional phase, the patent eligibility is checked against the relevant national/regional regulations of the designated states and a patent is granted where appropriate. The German Patent and Trade Mark Office accepts PCT applications as a receiving Office and grants patents as a “designated Office” in the national Phase. The PCT System is of great importance to patent applicants from Germany, who have been among its top users for years.

In order to make the PCT System even more appealing to applicants in Germany, the legislator – with considerable contribution by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office − has adopted three changes in legislation that entered into force in the year 2022:

Extension of the time limit for entry into the national phase

The Second Act to Simplify and Modernise Patent Law (Zweites Gesetz zur Vereinfachung und Modernisierung des Patentrechts, 2. PatMoG), effective as of 1 May 2022, extends the time limit for entry into the national phase of a PCT application from 30 to 31 months after the application date or, where applicable, the priority date. Applicants now have one extra month to pay the fee for entry into the national phase to the German Patent and Trade Mark Office and, where applicable, to submit the German translation of the application (Article III sections 4 and 6 of the Act on International Patent Conventions − Gesetz über internationale Patentübereinkommen, IntPatÜbkG).

Signatureless PCT applications via “ePCT”

Since 1 July 2022, it has been possible for applicants to simply file applications with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office as the receiving Office online via the WIPO application system “ePCT”. ePCT is a secure browser-based system offering a wide range of functions. Users can log in to ePCT using their WIPO Account to access the latest bibliographic data and documents on record at the International Bureau (IB). During this process, it is not necessary to apply a signature using a signature card. The Ordinance on Electronic Legal Transactions with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (Verordnung über den elektronischen Rechtsverkehr beim Deutschen Patent- und Markenamt, ERVDPMAV) has been changed in order to open this new and modern submission channel.

New Standard ST.26 for filing applications disclosing sequence listings

For patent and utility model applications filed on or after 1 July 2022, a requirement for the submission of any corresponding sequence listings as electronic document in XML format has been in place since 1 July 2022. The legal requirements of the Ordinance on Patent Procedures before the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (Verordnung zum Verfahren in Patentsachen vor dem Deutschen Patent- und Markenamt, PatV) and the Ordinance Implementing the Utility Model Act (Verordnung zur Ausführung des Gebrauchsmustergesetzes, GebrMV) have been amended accordingly. The reason for the revision is the new international WIPO Standard ST.26 for the presentation of nucleotide and amino acid sequence listings. Replacing the Standard ST.25, this new standard modernises and specifies the global requirements regarding content and form of sequence listings, aiming to enhance their usability. WIPO provides the software “WIPO Sequence” for the creation of sequence listing files complying with the ST.26 format.

Consult our websites on international patent applications for further information.

Bereich Patente

Interview “We would be less innovative without immigration”

Portrait Dr Oliver Koppel, German Economic Institute, Cologne, Photo: Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft e.V.
Dr Oliver Koppel, German Economic Institute, Cologne

Dr Oliver Koppel, patent expert at the German Economic Institute (IW), on immigrants’ contribution to innovation in Germany, a shift in awareness in labour market policies and the share of patent applications by women by international comparison.

Dr Koppel, for several years, you have been conducting a study on immigrants’ contribution to innovation in Germany. Where would this country be without immigration?

According to our findings, at this point, at least one out of eight patent applications from Germany can be entirely attributed to inventors of foreign origin. This contribution has increased considerably over the years. Without these inventors’ contribution, innovative capacity in Germany would even have been decreasing for a couple of years.

Why do immigrants contribute so substantially to innovation?

German immigration policy from 2010 onwards has been very successful. The groundwork was laid by embracing the obvious reality that Germany is a country of immigration. The rules authorising residence were simplified, labour market integration became easier. For example, young people coming from abroad who attend German universities have the perfect immigration potential. They are familiar with the culture; they usually speak our language quite well and they have already started networking. But we used to just send them away right after their graduation. Now we try to encourage them to also take up work in Germany.

Which countries bring us most inventors with foreign roots?

Inventors from the East and Southeast of Europe make up the largest share. They come from Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and, for several years now, Bulgaria and Rumania. But we see the highest dynamic in the immigration of inventors from third countries, especially from the Chinese and Indian speaking regions. Speakers of the Arabic and Turkish languages are more and more present as well.

Are immigrants more inventive than locals?

I do not think so, and that is not what we are trying to show in the study. The decline in patent activity by Germans who have always been residents here is simply due to demography. There are fewer and fewer of us, and labour market policy is reflecting that. As companies are designed to make profit, they mainly go for diversity, because it is useful for them in practice. And this is also reflected in innovation activity. When it comes to immigrants, we are facing a challenge that is very similar to the stronger integration of women.

What share do patent applications by women make up by international comparison?

The result for Germany is very disillusioning. Less than four percent of patent applications from the German speaking regions can be attributed entirely to female inventors. By contrast, we see a share of 15 to 20 percent of female inventors in patent applications from speakers of Chinese and Indian languages. The share in applications from Eastern Europe is even as high as up to 25 percent. That really is surprising, as more and more women hold university degrees in the fields of technology and science. So, there is still a lot to be done in order to tap the potential of female inventors from the German speaking regions.

More information here.


Perspective Patents “made in Germany”

Automobile, X-ray tube, computer: For almost 150 years, the German patent has not only protected outstanding innovations, its high degree of validity has also been an important success factor for Germany as an exporting nation. The introduction of the European Unitary Patent also gives applicants new options in the German system.

Dr Maria Skottke-Klein has been Head of Directorate General “Patents and Utility Models” since April 2022. After joining the DPMA in 1991, she initially worked as a patent examiner, then as Head of a patent division, as Head of a cluster and as Head of Directorate General 2 (Information). Dr Skottke-Klein studied chemistry at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. She did a doctorate at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin.

Dr Maria Skottke-Klein, Photo: Oliver Bodmer

There was stuttering and shaking — and more than a few people probably expected the ride to end unhappily: On 5 August 1888, Bertha Benz drove with her sons in a “Motorwagen Nummer 3”, designed by her husband Carl Benz, approximately 100 kilometres from Mannheim to her hometown Pforzheim in order to see her mother. A daring journey. Never before had such a long ride been taken by motor vehicle. But Bertha Benz reached the destination unharmed, showing that motor vehicles can be used as means of transport in everyday life — and thus paving the way for the automotive industry in Germany.

Engineering skills, courage and pioneering spirit — this combination has always strengthened German industry. Another factor that has also been crucial for the success of industry for almost 150 years often goes unmentioned. It was also relied on by Bertha and Carl Benz. For all audacity, the entrepreneurial couple counted on security from the outset: In 1886, they filed the automobile with the Imperial Patent Office and were granted a patent for their “Motorwagen Nummer 1”. They were aware that technological innovations need protection in the competition at national and international level. Only on this basis, such innovations can unfold their full economic potential and thus create growth, prosperity and jobs.

Refrigerator, X-ray tube, first freely programmable computer, MP3 process — the list of outstanding innovations protected by the Imperial Patent Office and its successor offices — now the German Patent and Trade Mark Office — is long. Increasing application numbers have expressed the great trust of industry in the German IP authorities. Engineering skills and entrepreneurial spirit on the one hand and excellent examination quality resulting in highly valid patent protection on the other hand have been the success factors of Germany as an exporting nation for many decades.

Engineering skills and strong patent protection are the success factors of our exporting nation.

Over the decades, the IP systems have continued to develop. In the context of European integration, it has been possible since the 1970s to apply for European patents at the European Patent Office (EPO) — as what are referred to as bundle patents for which applicants themselves can select the states of protection. This year, a new protection option will be introduced: the European Unitary Patent. If you select this option at the EPO, you will automatically obtain protection in the entire territory of the participating states, that is, initially 17 countries, including Germany. The DPMA congratulates the EPO as our partner office on the new option it offers! In the interest of our users, too, we appreciate the new protection option.

The changes of the past decades have not been detrimental to the attractiveness of the German patent. The national and European systems have complemented each other rather than competing with each other. Neither will the current development challenge our national IP right. I personally even believe that, in the future, the German patent might become even more attractive for many applicants.

In view of the new Unitary Patent, many applicants will carefully assess how large the actual territorial scope of protection of the patent has to be. Experience shows that a very large proportion of European patents claim protection in only a few countries – including Germany in almost all cases. For companies operating in a technology field for which the extraordinarily important German market and possibly one or two additional markets are strategically sufficient, selective patent strategies with national applications at the DPMA will remain attractive. Especially as, after Brexit, the United Kingdom is not covered by the Unitary Patent system. If you seek protection there, you need a national British patent anyway.

Costs and risks play an important role in making a decision on patent strategies: An application made in the Unitary Patent system causes higher costs than an application for one or two national patents. In addition, the Unitary Patent is more prone to challenges by competitors from abroad and can thus increase the risk of infringement and revocation proceedings.

Flexibility is a considerable asset to the German patent system. From the filing date, you have seven years to file an examination request. In the examination procedure, you can fully revert to the original disclosure in order to amend your patent claims and thus the requested scope of protection. Should you disagree with a decision made by the DPMA, there are low-cost options to lodge an opposition and make an appeal. Unlike the European system, the German system does not provide for an extinction of the exercise of a right.

You can count on our expertise, our experience and the quality of our examinations.

Moreover, the DPMA focuses its examinations largely on the technical content of an application. Formal aspects are of minor relevance to the examination of the patentability of the filed invention. Thanks to relevant decisions by the Federal Court of Justice, we are now also well prepared for the consistently growing number of computer-implemented inventions. If a technological problem is solved using technology, we will usually consider the related software to be patentable too.

And if you wish to use the European Unitary Patent, you will also have new options in the German system: The Unitary Patent can be combined with or complemented by a national patent with an identical scope of protection and the same priority. This double protection can offer applicants considerable advantages, especially in the case of a legal dispute. In addition to the new Unified Court system, you still have access to established national courts with their highly competent and experienced judges. If your patent is revoked at European level, the protection will at first continue in Germany because of the national patent.

This means that all signs speak in favour of the national patent in the future as well. It is for you to decide whether this IP right fits your needs. In any case, you can still count on our expertise, our experience and the quality of our examination. Technology from Germany has always enjoyed an excellent reputation worldwide. Our ambition is to live up to that reputation: We grant patents “made in Germany”!