Questions to Customer Care and Services
Here we provide information to you about current, frequently asked or particularly interesting questions, which our Customer Care and Services is answering daily
I have an idea for a game. How can I protect a game?
You can obtain only very limited protection for board games and entertainment games at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office. If the game only consists of new rules or a new division of the game board, it is not patentable. Because an idea for a game does not constitute a technical innovation. Ideas are not eligible for protection under patent law. This applies to business and organisational ideas and plans (sales systems, advertising ideas, etc.) as well as to scientific theories, mathematical methods, game systems and rules for performing mental acts.
If the entertainment game includes play equipment or the game includes a new technical invention, it is possible to apply for a patent and/or utility model. In our DEPATISnet database you will find card games, board games, roulette games; indoor games using small moving playing bodies; video games; games in class A63F.
If you want to mark the game with a special name (e.g. "Memory" or "Catan"), filing an application for a trade mark is an option. However, trade mark protection only covers the name of the game, not the design of the game equipment nor the version of the rules of the game.
You can apply for a design for the outer shape of the playing tokens, the surface of the game board or the pictures of playing cards. In DPMAregister you can find registered designs with these product designations: board games, card games, playing cards, game boards, learning games, tokens for games. Subclass 21-01 can be used to search for the class of goods (Locarno).
The game may also be protected by copyright. Copyright arises with the creation of the work; an application is neither required nor possible. The German Patent and Trade Mark Office is not responsible for these copyright issues. Please consult a lawyer for legal advice on this matter.
The German Games Archive Nuremberg and the Deutsches Spielemuseum e.V. (German Games Museum) in Chemnitz provide information about games. There you will also find further links to associations of game creators and game archives.
I need to have my birth certificate authenticated. Does the DPMA issue an apostille for this purpose?
No, it does not. According to the Ordinance on the Issuing of the Certificate under Article 3 of the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (in German), the DPMA issues apostilles only for documents emanating from its own area of responsibility. For example, priority documents of IP applications, German first publications of patent applications (Offenlegungsschriften), patent specifications or register extracts from DPMAregister are authenticated upon an extra written request.
For all other federal documents, i.e. those from a federal court or from the other federal authorities, the Federal Office of Administration issues authentications.
Civil status documents or documents of the Länder and regional courts fall, depending on the case, within the remit of the respective local authorities and authorities of the Länder or regional courts.
Abroad, the authenticity of German documents is often only recognised if they have been legalised by the competent representative entity (consulate, embassy) of the concerned foreign state in the Federal Republic of Germany or if they are provided with an apostille in accordance with the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961.
The Federal Foreign Office also offers information on the keyword “International Recognition / Legalization of Documents”.
I have sent a fax to the DPMA. Has it arrived?
Customers keep asking whether their fax has actually arrived at the DPMA because they have received a cancellation or error message.
Please note that the DPMA receives up to 10,000 faxed pages per day. Assigning the numerous fax pages to individual business processes (new IP applications or follow-ups to existing files, intended use of SEPA direct debit mandates, other letters) takes some time. Therefore, neither the Customer Care and Services nor the Document Receiving Service staff can confirm receipt of the fax shortly after it having been sent.
It is important that you clearly indicate on the fax how many pages it contains in total. In the case of follow-ups to individual IP acts, also especially in the case of changes of address, you should always state the respective file number(s).
If your fax does not pass (abort or error message), this could be because your telephone provider has switched its own technology to "Voice over IP" (VoIP). In this case, you will have to configure your fax machine differently. The recommendations of the Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railway) are as follows:
- Do not use a "group 4" fax
- Limit the transmission speed to 9,600 bps.
- Attention, the transmission will take correspondingly longer! If necessary, start the fax transmission at a time outside of the usual peak times.
- Turn on the fax error correction mode (ECM).
- In addition, switching off settings of your telephone system (voice activity detection – VAD, echo suppression) can also increase the probability of a successful fax transmission.
If you have set up your fax machine in this way, your fax should reach the DPMA. Please understand that the DPMA cannot support you in configuring your telephone system, fax machine or alternative fax solutions. The existing problems are caused by the technology of the telephone networks/transmission networks. Therefore, the DPMA cannot guarantee a successful transmission. It might also be advisable to contact your telephone network provider.
Alternatively, letters can be sent to the DPMA by post (German Patent and Trade Mark Office, 80297 Munich) or electronically (with DPMAdirektPro or DPMAdirektWeb). You may also hand in your letters personally at the DPMA in Munich, Jena or Berlin or drop them in the night mailbox (see Contact). New applications can currently also be filed at ten patent information centres (Stuttgart, Bremen, Hamburg, Aachen, Dortmund, Kaiserslautern, Saarbrücken, Chemnitz, Dresden, Ilmenau).
Please note: Do not send us applications, requests and other submissions to the files by e-mail. Since this means of transmission is not permitted for legal proceedings, these e-mails are not forwarded for processing.
Caution with invoices from official-sounding companies or individuals
Our Customer Care and Services frequently receives calls about misleading requests for payment in connection with patents, utility models, trade marks and designs. This often involves invoices sent by companies or individuals with official-sounding names.
Owners of IP rights are offered to have their patent, utility model, trade mark or design registered in non-official registers or publications. Furthermore, these letters are accompanied by requests for payment of large amounts, often with very short payment deadlines.
Please read these offers carefully. They do not relate to registration fees or renewal fees of the DPMA. Official fees arising in connection with an IP right in procedures before the German Patent and Trade Mark Office must be paid exclusively to the account of the DPMA. Further information and a list of companies known to the DPMA are available here.
May I use/copy a patent document (text and drawings) for my research paper or a presentation? Are patent documents protected by copyright?
Pursuant to Section 5(2) of the German Act on Copyright and Related Rights (Urheberrechtsgesetz, UrhgG), patent documents (first publications of applications, patent specifications and utility model specifications) are excluded from copyright protection from the time of their official publication. Please note that you must cite the source correctly when you publish the paper. The obligation to cite the source comprises the name of the authority and the reference. Examples of a correct citation of a patent document:
- DE 27 03 353 A1 or
- DE 10 2005 051 128 B4.
For further examples on how to cite, please see our publication DPMAinformativ no. 3 (IPIA) (in German). You are not allowed to alter the text, the title, the drawings and the name of the patent applicant (see Sec. 62(1), first and second sentences, in conjunction with Sec. 39 Copyright Act: prohibition of alteration, and Sec. 63(1) and (2) Copyright Act: acknowledgement of source).
How can I protect a food recipe or formulation?
We are often faced with the question of whether it is possible to protect a food recipe or formulation. As a rule, you cannot apply for a patent or utility model for formulations consisting of standard basic ingredients or mixtures of known basic ingredients.
A patent is granted for a technical invention only if it involves an inventive step and is new and industrially applicable. This also applies to filing applications for recipes.
An application for a patent or utility model in the field of food and recipes is therefore only possible if:
- the preparation of a dish or a drink goes beyond the normal cooking practices. This is the case, for example, if you use unusual process steps. In addition, you must achieve a special effect that cannot be readily expected (for example, a particularly extended shelf life).
- unusual basic ingredients or unusual mixtures of basic ingredients (including spices) are used to achieve an unforeseen effect.
In addition, the composition or the preparation method must be described in such a way that a chef or hobby chef can easily prepare the dish. And this description must be made available to the public by the DPMA. Of course, these patents and utility models also have a limited life. This means that, afterwards, the recipe can be used by anyone. Many food and beverage producers therefore keep their formulations secret and only protect the name or logo under which they offer the product (for example Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Maggi, Underberg) by a trade mark.
I have an idea for an app. How can I protect it?
The question of whether an app is patentable cannot be answered with a clear "yes" or "no". Here too, the same applies as to protecting computer-implemented inventions: It depends ...
In general, the German Patent Act (Patentgesetz) excludes schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business from patent protection. This also applies to programs for computers as such. Thus the idea and the concept for an app are not eligible for protection. However, if the app software has a technical character, patent protection for a computer-implemented invention may be a possibility. However, the app should be capable of showing an outwardly perceptible success, for example through the control of a robot. This is unlikely to be the case for most apps.
By using the International Patent Classification in our DEPATISnet database, particularly the IPC symbol G06Q and its related subgroups a.o. (data processing systems or methods, specially adapted for administrative, commercial, financial or managerial purposes ...) you can perform a search for examples of apps having a technical aspect for which a patent or utility model has been applied for as a computer-implemented invention.
You can have the name of the app registered as a trade mark but also the icon identifying the app that is used to open the app on the smartphone screen or the slogan that you use to advertise your app (of course only if the trade mark is eligible for protection).
Some app developers have had the layout of the screen interfaces registered as a design in class of goods 14-04 with the product indication a.o. "Screen displays", "Graphical user interfaces" [computer screen layout] or/and "Icons" [for computer].
My grandmother’s old clock bears the marking D.R.G.M. 29728. Could you please give me more information on this utility model?
The abbreviation "D.R.G.M." or "DRGM" means utility model of the German Reich (Deutsches Reichsgebrauchsmuster) and refers to utility models applied for between 1891 and 1945. Utility model documents (description, claims, any drawings) up to registration number 1 286 499 are not available and therefore not searchable via DEPATISnet. They were destroyed as required by the statutory provisions applicable at that time. Only since 1936, after a legal reform, has the examination of patents for novelty referred to utility models as state of the art.
As a result of the war, the documents for registration numbers from 1 534 500 to 1 539 210 (last entry in the register on 16 January 1945) are not available either.
As regards registration numbers from 1 to 1 286 499 and from 1 534 500 to 1 539 210, the customer service of the DPMA – IDZ Berlin can provide excerpts from the utility model register of the former Reichspatentamt (Patent Office of the German Reich), maintained by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, for a fee of 15 euros (per excerpt). An excerpt from this register contains the following information:
- Serial number - class - description - name and address of the applicant - date of application - date of registration - file number - note of cancellation - comments.
Alternatively, the excerpt can also be sent electronically as a JPEG file (2 pages). This type of excerpt reproduces the original entry – partially handwritten in Sütterlin script. A fee of 2.50 euros is charged for this service.
A list of tools to search for historical IP rights can be found at here.
Do you have any further questions?
Please call our Customer Care and Services (+49 089 2195-1000) - or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated: 20 October 2020