Intellectual property rights for inventions

When it comes to technical inventions, the general rule is: apply first, then talk about it. For start-ups still at the beginning of their journey who are presenting their business concept – be it in pitches, at trade fairs, to build partnerships, or in any other context – it is a good idea to protect the initial ideas beforehand.

Because once an idea has been made public, it is no longer considered “new” under patent law. An important requirement for the granting of a patent would therefore no longer be met. In addition, the invention must be “based on an inventive step”. This is the case if a person skilled in the art could not have easily suggested the invention themselves. Furthermore, it must be industrially applicable, and it must be a technical invention which is described in the patent application in such a way that it is reproducible. All these requirements are carefully examined by the patent office entrusted with the application. If they are met, there will be nothing more standing in the way of granting your patent.

Patent applications: the essentials

The patent application process

Deadlines, fees, and forms

Applying for a patent sounds like a lot of red tape – and to some extent it is. But the effort is worth it. Once a patent has been applied for and granted, you can prohibit others from using your invention for a certain amount of time. 

As a patent holder, you therefore have a monopoly on your invention for a limited period. You secure your earning power through licensing or by exploiting your patented ideas yourself.

The German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) is responsible for patent applications in Germany. This is where you file your patent documents and pay the application fee (40 euros for electronic applications). The patent application is first and foremost about: How do I express a complex issue as precisely as possible? After all, the simpler and more basic the description is, the further an invention’s scope of protection will extend – a tricky task we will be happy to assist you with!

By submitting the application documents you secure your application’s priority or filing date. This may be crucial when it comes to certain time limits or later questions about the patentability of your invention. The documents are first checked to make sure all formal requirements are met. The actual examination of the protection requirements only takes place once a request for examination has been filed and the examination fee (350 euros in Germany) has been paid. For a German patent application, you have seven years from the date of application to do this.

Your patent application will be published after 18 months. A reference to the “Offenlegungsschrift” (the first publication of the application) appears in the DPMAregister, which you can view from the first day of publication. This appears irrespective of whether you have filed a request for examination or not.

After successful examination of your application based on special IP criteria, the German Patent and Trademark Office will grant you the patent. It can then also be viewed in the DEPATISnet and DPMAregister databases. Good news for you: as the patent holder, you now have the right to prohibit others from making, selling, or otherwise using your invention. This is what makes a patent so valuable. This right will expire 20 years from the day of application .

The road to your patent

To maintain your patent, fees are due for  the third year and all subsequent years. Compliance with these and other deadlines in connection with patents can – depending on the size of your IP portfolio – become a complex matter in which we are also happy to assist you. You can find more information on the patent application procedure in Germany on the website of the German Patent and Trademark Office.

If you are seeking patent protection for multiple European countries, the European Patent Office (EPO) is the right place to go. In addition to a European patent (EP), it will also be possible to obtain the new unitary patent here in future. What makes this special? It provides uniform protection and has the same effect in all participating EU member states.

The procedure for applying for a patent at the EPO is similar to that at the German Patent and Trademark Office. The official languages of the EPO are German, English, and French. If you submit your application in another language, you must provide a translation. You can find more information on the EPO website.

But regardless of whether you are seeking protection for your ideas in Germany, Europe, or worldwide: we will be happy to advise and assist you with your patent applications. Just get in touch!

Our prices for start-ups

From earnings to expenditure, from financial assistance to fixed costs: anyone who wants to get their own business off the ground needs a high degree of reliability in their calculations. We can offer you that. We offer fair start-up package prices for the combinations of research, IP right applications, and other IP-related services that are typically relevant for start-ups. That’s how the business plan works, too.

Just get in touch!

 

Checklist for applying for IP rights

Before we can support you with our expertise and prepare an IP application for you, we need some information about your idea: In which market would you like to establish your company? Who are your competitors? What makes your idea or invention stand out? Scientific publications or patent literature would also help us.

Start-up aid from the federal government

No budget for patents? No problem. The German federal government supports the promotion of innovative founders and young entrepreneurs. The program “WIPANO – Knowledge and Technology Transfer through Patents and Standards” of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) supports you in protecting your ideas with IP rights and establishing yourself on the market.

The program provides financial assistance for the entire process of applying for an IP right – from reviewing the idea to exploiting the invention. Those who participate in the funding program, which lasts a maximum of 24 months, can take advantage of service packages offered by qualified external providers – which of course include our patent attorney services. The official fees incurred for securing IP protection for the invention are also subsidized.

As an applicant, you must have a branch office or business premises in Germany and must not have filed a patent or utility model application in the last five years before filing the application. Your annual turnover may be no more than 50 million euros, or your annual balance sheet total may be no more than 43 million euros (according to the EU definition). Further requirements for financial assistance and information on the WIPANO program can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

We would be happy to assist you in applying for the WIPANO funding program.

In addition to the WIPANO funding program, there is also the “Ideas Powered for Business SME Fund” program from the European Union.

Read all about this program here in our blog.

Our start-up consultation

Find out about our services and about the potential to protect your ideas under intellectual property law! Our attorneys will be happy to show you the general direction in which your idea can go and discuss further possible steps on your path to applying for IP rights.

FAQs / Patents

The official fees due for a patent application vary hugely. They depend, among other things, on the scope of protection and the countries in which you wish to protect your invention. Whether patents or the somewhat cheaper variation of utility models: we offer package prices for the application and all other services at fair start-up conditions, which we will be happy to provide you with, on request. These include both the official fees and our fees for preparing your application. Monitoring the deadlines of the offices is naturally also part of this service. So you can be sure that you will not incur any extra fees. Special funding programs, for example WIPANO, can help you with financing.

In an initial consultation, we discuss what makes your idea stand out, what the prior art is for this idea, and what other criteria need to be met in order to apply for a patent, a utility model, or a trademark. To help you prepare for the consultation, we will be happy to provide you with a checklist in advance, which will make it easy for you to compile all the documents. Technical drawings or prototypes of your invention can also be helpful, as can patent literature or scientific publications about your idea. Once all documents are complete and all questions have been resolved, we take care of filing your application with the relevant offices. Throughout the entire process – from the initial consultation to the filing of your patent application and gladly beyond – we are there to advise you.

You should apply for a patent for your invention before you talk about it to third parties – whether at trade fairs, in pitches, or at other events. You should also keep your cards close to your chest with investors or service providers. If this is not possible, we recommend at least having them sign a confidentiality agreement. We are happy to assist you with this, too. By the way, even if your product is still in the development stage, it might be worth applying for an IP right already – for example, a patent, a (comparatively cheaper) utility model, a trademark, and/or a design.

It takes an estimated one to two months from the initial consultation with us to the prepared patent application. Until then, you will need to hang in there – and above all keep your idea secret! You should also not attend pitches, trade fairs, and other events during this time. Because once an idea has been made public, it is no longer considered “new” under patent law. The requirements for the granting of a patent would therefore no longer be met. The granting procedure for a patent takes an average of three years.

One important criterion for the granting of a patent is that the invention is “new”. This means that it has not been made public beforehand. To meet the protection requirements, you should therefore avoid talking about your idea beforehand with third parties as far as possible – this includes at trade fairs and in the context of pitches or other events. You should also keep your cards close to your chest with investors or service providers. If this is not possible, we recommend at least having them sign a confidentiality agreement. Of course, you can talk about your invention with those who are directly involved with it, for example business partners, the employees involved, or the inventors themselves.

Applying for a patent for your invention will give you peace of mind that no one will invalidate your invention by copying it without your consent. With a patent, you have a monopoly on your invention for a limited period of time – this is an important building block for your economic success. In Germany, there is a particularly effective IP system in place that gives you very good chances of enforcing your patent in court in the event of a dispute. You can profit from the proceeds of a patent for quite some time – through your own business or in the form of licensing fees.

Watch the market and your competitors! This way you will see how your company is positioned and which IP rights could stand in your way. Databases such as DEPATISnet or Espacenet are good for researching this. Information about legal status and the status of any legal proceedings, as well as publication data are also available. For a more in-depth analysis, for example in the form of FTO (“Freedom to Operate”) searches, we will be happy to assist you with our expertise.

 

Theoretically, even as a layperson you can prepare a patent application and file it with the relevant offices. However, practice shows that, depending on the type of invention and the scope of protection you require, an application and the associated correspondence with the offices can become very complex. The expertise of a patent attorney is highly recommended. This is all the more so because once applications have been submitted, they can no longer be extended or substantively amended later on.

Patents and utility models are effective means of protecting technical inventions. Unlike patents, utility models do not protect processes. However, utility models offer fast, low-cost protection for your invention in Germany. With utility models, no examination is carried out as to whether the subject-matter to be protected is new or based on an inventive step. After meeting the formal requirements (e.g. whether it is a technical invention), the utility model is registered within a few weeks. The catch here is that, because the substantive requirements for protection are only examined if the utility model is challenged – for example in cancellation or infringement proceedings – a utility model is at higher risk of being attacked and cancelled. Your research beforehand should therefore be all the more thorough. A patent is valid for a maximum of 20 years, a utility model for a maximum of 10 years.

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