Your text, your picture, your music: German Patent and Trade Mark Office provides information on copyright too

many copyright symbols

DPMA uses new information material to sharpen its profile as the centre of expertise for intellectual property in Germany – DPMA President: We inform creative people about their rights – From a furniture classic to artificial intelligence: Copyright is effective and faces new challenges

Press release of 7 February 2024

Munich. The German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) has added a key element to the information on intellectual property it offers: In addition to patents, utility models, trade marks and designs, the DPMA will provide information on copyright in the future, addressing this important issue in a new brochure. “Countless small and big works are protected by copyright in Germany. The creators of these works often know too little about their rights and cannot fully exploit the economic potential,” DPMA President Eva Schewior says, and adds: “As part of our new mandate to inform, we aim to provide the numerous creative people in our country with information on the exercise of their rights. In addition, we explain what to do in order not to infringe other people’s copyright. In this way, the DPMA extends and sharpens its profile as the centre of expertise for intellectual property in Germany.” The new brochure "Urheberrecht – Ihr Text, Ihr Bild, Ihre Musik: Welche Rechte Sie haben, wenn Sie ein Werk schaffen" (in German) is now available on our website. Printed copies of the brochure can be obtained from the Press and Public Relations office of the DPMA at

Extended mandate to provide information on intellectual property

Since last year, there has been an extended mandate to provide information on intellectual property on the basis of section 26a of the Patent Act (Patentgesetz), providing that the DPMA has to inform the public, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, about IP rights and their exercise and enforcement. Copyright is an important instrument to protect intellectual property. As opposed to patents, utility models, trade marks and designs, under which protection does not start before the registration in the register, copyright automatically arises upon the creation of a work. Works include, for example, texts, pictures or pieces of music.

Concern for protection dates back to the 15th century

Copyright is based on a concern for protection that dates back to after the invention of letterpress printing (15th century). However, the first copyright laws in Europe were not adopted before the 18th century. There are well-known examples that show which effects copyright can have, which limits it has and which challenges can arise for it from new innovations.

Bauhaus: Copyright protection for Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s cantilever chair until 2039

The copyright protection for the cantilever chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886 to 1969), an architect and Bauhaus director, will continue until 2039 – even though the patent lapsed a long time ago. The copyright will lapse 70 years after the death of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was the creator. For more information on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s cantilever chair, please refer to the Poster gallery. Combining art and technology and creating a fancy and simple design for mass-market everyday objects were, in short, the key concerns of the Bauhaus. The related management of rights was and still is very interesting (see special on our website).

Pippi Longstocking: Protection for the literary work, free availability of the dress style

Let’s move from a furniture classic to a literary classic: Astrid Lindgren’s children’s book icon Pippi Longstocking is protected by copyright as a literary work but not monopolisable as a dress or personality style. The Federal Court of Justice had issued a decision allowing a retail chain to use a figure that was obviously to represent Pippi Longstocking to advertise its carnival fancy dresses. It held that although the advertisement evoked associations with Pippi Longstocking, the copyright on the literary figure was not infringed.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse: Original versions are already in the public domain in the United States

Let’s now move from Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking to the Walt Disney characters: In the United States, where the copyright protection for a work ends 95 years after its publication, the original black-and-white versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse from the 1928 Disney short film Steamboat Willie have been in the public domain since 1 January 2024. In Germany, the copyright will not expire before 2041, i.e. 70 years after the death of Ub Irwerks, who, as an animator and director, was a co-creator of the work. If a work is available in the public domain, everybody can freely use it.

Know and enforce your rights in times of artificial intelligence

Legal provisions develop as social changes happen. In hardly any other field of law are the current challenges as fundamental as in copyright law: Computer programs that use artificial intelligence bring up new questions. In music, for example, AI systems are fed with many songs and pieces of music, being thus enabled to create songs and instrumental music themselves. If a generative AI tool is fed with music, where can the creators of the original music assert their rights? With its externer Link Creators Learn Intellectual Property platform, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) offers answers and practical information. When the platform was presented, ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus said: "Today, an essential part of being a songwriter is to be an entrepreneur, too. You need to know your rights and what you’re doing."

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Inventiveness and creativity need effective protection. 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 to inventors and companies. They implement federal innovation strategies and develop the national, European and international protection systems.

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Last updated: 7 February 2024