Inventions get companies ahead – however, they also lead to an increasing number of internal conflicts between the employer and the inventive employee. Cohausz & FLorack (C&F) have been making this observation from their mandates over the course of recent years. In the judgement of our law firm, the German Employee Invention Act (GEIA), which ensures a balance of interest between the parties involved, is attract enough attention yet. “This law offers an advantage for everyone involved as it creates impulses for good ideas – and yet, there are also hidden risks if companies don’t take care of those ideas springing from within their own ranks in good time”, says C&F patent attorney Johannes Simons. Thus, until now companies have been applying inventions for a patent and made use of them – however, the inventor’s claim for remuneration specified in the GEIA has remained unrecognized for many years. Inevitably, this leads to a conflict when the inventor intends to enforce this claim and files a lawsuit. One reason might be the sum of remuneration both parties are unsure about. As a consequence, false expectations are witnessed on the one side and too high expenses on the other.
Dealing with Inventions systematically
According to Simons, companies should arrange their way of dealing with matters of invention in good time. Especially middle-sized businesses have a lot of catching up to do. In order to establish a useful system, the following questions might come in handy:
- Which inventions have been applied for a patent by an employee? (Inventory)
- Which of those patents have actually been used by the company?
- How much does the individual patent yield?
- How much would the company be willing to pay if it had to purchase the respective licenses for using a patent?
- Which position does the respective inventor hold within the company?
- To which extent is an initiative for finding a solution for technical tasks expected
Answering these questions helps entrepreneurs evaluating the use of a particular invention for a company in a profounder fashion. Assuming this, the amount of remuneration can be specified with the help of special methods of calculation. Communicating with the staff at an early stage would be of vital importance for this approach, says C&F attorney-at-law Reinhard Fischer. “Employers as well as leading employees and department managers should approach their co-workers in an offensively-minded way and reveal to them what to expect in an individual case if they make an invention and apply it for a patent.” This could help nip many a potential conflict in the bud.
A successful communication between employers and employees is the subject of a seminar offered by C&F once a year. Participants are given the opportunity to find out about the basics of the German Employee Invention Act. In addition, they are given a lot of practical tips. The next seminar will take place July 2 2014. Additional information and registration: Christiane Hering, email@example.com, phone: +49 211 90490-0.