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Questions to Customer Care and Services

In this section we provide information to you about current, frequently asked or particularly interesting questions, which our Customer Care and Services is answering daily.


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.

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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].

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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.

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Last updated: 20/06/18 

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