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Patent Information


The patent system is based on the so-called contract theory. The grant of a patent establishes a contract between the applicant and the State. The State grants the inventor a monopoly position (exclusive territorial right to the invention for a limited period of time) as a 'reward' for his innovation. In return, the patent applicant must fully disclose his invention to the public. The patent office provides for the disclosure on behalf of the applicant by publishing the patent documents.

The path from the idea to the patent may vary from country to country. However, patent legislation around the world provides for the publication of a patent specification upon the grant of a patent. Many patent laws, among them the German Patent Law, even prescribe that patent applications have to be published 18 months after the filing date. This first publication of the application is called 'Offenlegungsschrift'.


Patent information can be roughly divided into three categories:

  • technical information
    • cover the technical knowledge contained in patent specifications and published patent applications
  • bibliographic information
    • are, for example, data regarding the applicant, inventor, classification symbols, date of filing, representative, country of filing, document number
  • legal information
    • relate to the legal and procedural status. They show the stages of a patent file, for example, whether a patent is still in force, when the next fee will be due, etc.

You can search patent information within the databases of the DPMA at E-Services.

Value of patent information

Gears meshing together with the word innovation; @iStockphoto.com/DNY59

In addition to granting patents, patent offices have the legal duty to provide information and to make patent information available to the public.

By documenting the state of the art, patent information products significantly contribute to fostering innovation. This pool of knowledge provides strong motivation for new inventive activities.

Patent information can help you to take well-founded future-oriented business decisions. Systematic utilisation of patent information may prevent you from investing in expensive duplicate developments and infringing existing IP rights. You can perform targeted searches for 'loopholes' in IP rights and start your own developments at these points.

Regular utilisation of patent information will enable you to draw conclusions on future business fields of an enterprise. Furthermore, patent information shows development trends in the fields of science and technology.

You can use patent information to monitor the IP activities of your competitors. The results might be valuable for your own R&D activities.

Furthermore, you can find prospective cooperation partners using patent searches and enter into licence agreements, which will allow them to use your patents or, vice versa, will enable you to use their patents.

Patent information tells you in which countries a given invention is patent protected, and at what time the patents will expire and thus be free for general use.

Access to patent information

Hands on a laptop keyboard; @iStockphoto.com/domin_domin

Free access is provided to the patent information products of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office on the Internet.

At least all legally prescribed publications are made available online free of charge. In addition, the online information services of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office offer a large variety of options for utilising IP data and information.

In the search rooms of the DPMA in Munich and Berlin, you get assistance on how to use the information facilities and you can access individual conventional collections. Go to the Search page to find out which database facilities will be best suited to your needs.

Apart from national and international, there are many other providers of patent or IP information.

© 2016 Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt | Last updated 18/09/17