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Patent protection

What is the purpose of patent protection?

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Patents protect technical inventions

The main purpose of patents is to protect innovative products and processes from unwanted copying.

Patent owners gain a territorial monopoly right of use for a limited period. At the same time, patents are an important source of information, since the disclosure of an invention is an incentive for further innovations.

If you are the owner of a patent you can exploit your invention yourself and secure an exclusive position on the market, or you can sell or license your patent.

Patent protection strengthens the position of an enterprise in the global market and is a significant location factor. The patent portfolio of a company is a valuable asset and reveals the innovative potential of a company or an individual inventor.

Patents have an important role in technology transfer. They can help to find partners for further developments and business cooperation, or they can be useful when a company applies for funding.

Patents help secure the resources invested in research and development and, by means of successful marketing strategies, allow reinvestment that, in turn, is the driving force of research and development.

The 'Patentserver' of the Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology provides information on funding opportunities and patent exploitation.

Go to Patentserver (BMWi)

What is patentable?

Inventions from all fields of technology are patentable.

It must be possible to perform the invention, and the presentation must allow to repeat it.

Under Section 1 Patentgesetz (Patent Law), there are three criteria for patentability:

  • novelty
  • inventive step
  • industrial applicability

An invention is new if it does not form part of the state of the art. The state of the art comprises all knowledge made available to the public by any means, anywhere in the world, before the date of filing. This includes written or oral descriptions, use or exhibitions.
Written descriptions mean for example books, journals, and patent documents. Oral description means, for example, a lecture delivered at a conference.

Even such information forms part of the state of the art that the inventor himself has published. If you have made an invention, make sure to keep it secret until you have applied for a patent.

Inventive Step
Even if your invention is new worldwide this does not automatically make it patentable. If the invention is obvious or trivial, you cannot get a patent. Inventive step means that the innovation must sufficiently differ from known prior art.

Industrial applicability
An invention is deemed to be industrially applicable if it can be produced or used in any area of industry, including agriculture. Methods for treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy and diagnostic methods are not regarded as inventions which are susceptible of industrial application.

Technicity Patents are only granted for technical inventions. The ongoing development of science and technology is permanently redefining the areas for which patent protection is available.
For this reason, German patent law does not define the term 'technical invention'.

The following items, however are not considered to be technical inventions and are therefore not patentable under German law:

  • discoveries
  • scientific theories
  • mathematical methods
  • aesthetic creations
  • schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business
  • programs for computers and presentation of information

Furthermore, patents are not granted in respect of:

  • inventions contrary to public policy or morality
  • animal and plant varieties; applications for the latter can be filed at Bundessortenamt (federal plant variety office) in Hannover

Under certain circumstances, patents are available for:

Computer programs
Although programs for computers and the presentation of information 'as such' are not patentable, inventions may be patented that require a computer. So-called computer implemented inventions must be based on technical considerations and solve a technical problem.

Inventions in the field of microbiology and biotechnology are not excluded from patent protection on principle. The provisions of the European biotechnology directive have an effect on national legislation.

© 2016 Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt | Last updated 22/08/17