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Federal Administrative Court strengthens competences of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Federal Administrative Court clarifies a central issue of the supervision of the collective management organisations – DPMA President: legal certainty for exercising supervision is appreciated

Press release of 18 June 2020

Munich. The Federal Administrative Court has clarified a central issue of the supervision of the collective management organisations. On 17 June 2020, it affirmed that the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) as the supervisory authority is authorised to thoroughly review the tariffs of collective management organisations. The court also found that collective management organisations are required to sufficiently determine the extent of the rights managed by them prior to fixing a tariff. "I am glad that the Federal Administrative Court has essentially confirmed the legal opinion of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office," said DPMA President Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer. "It is of immense importance for our activities that we now have legal certainty regarding this important issue of the supervision of the collective management organisations."

The proceedings in the Federal Administrative Court followed proceedings in the Munich Administrative Court and the High Administrative Court of Bavaria. In 2016, the Munich Administrative Court had limited the DPMA’s tariff review competence to a review for manifest errors. In 2019, the High Administrative Court of Bavaria essentially allowed the appeal lodged by the DPMA and assumed the DPMA’s authority to conduct thorough reviews of tariffs. The Federal Administrative Court has ultimately affirmed this decision.
Collective management organisations, such as GEMA for musical works or VG Wort for textual works, are associations organised under private law to which authors transfer rights for joint management. They grant licenses for the rights they manage, monitor the use of these rights and collect royalties to distribute them to the authors. The amount of the royalties is based on tariffs determined by the collective management organisations that inform users about what amount they have to pay for what type of use.

In Germany, 13 collective management organisations are authorised to conduct business. Since they act as trustees and often have an actual monopoly, they are subject to government supervision, which is exercised by the DPMA.

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office

The DPMA is the German centre of expertise for all intellectual property rights – patents, utility models, trade marks and designs. As the largest national patent office in Europe and the fifth largest national patent office in the world, our office stands for the future of Germany as a country of inventors in a globalised economy. Its staff of just under 2,800 at three locations – Munich, Jena and Berlin – provide services for inventors and companies. They implement federal innovation strategies and develop the national, European and international protection systems further. The DPMA also exercises the government supervision of the collective management organisations.

Last updated: 18 June 2020 

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