What does a patent protect?
Patents protect your inventions in the technical field. In addition to technicality and industrial applicability, the prerequisites for this are above all the novelty of your invention and the basis of an inventive step. Patent protection is available for devices and systems, i.e. substantive inventions, as well as processes and novel uses of known objects, such as new applications of known drugs. Products which are subject to other intellectual property rights, such as aesthetic creations, written works or games for which copyright or design rights are reserved, or objects which the legislator wishes to exclude from patent protection, such as mathematical methods, plans and rules for intellectual and business activities, are not patentable. The legislator also excludes the human body from patent protection.
Can I patent my software?
According to Sec. 1 PatG, programs for data processing equipment, i.e. software, are excluded from patent protection. This is because as written works they already enjoy protection under the Copyright Act. This means that your software may not be copied, but reprogramming and thus adopting the underlying ideas is not covered. Under certain circumstances, however, your software may also be a technical process that can be patented in this way. In numerous decisions, the Federal Supreme Court has developed various criteria according to which software in the guise of process protection can also be granted a patent. Your patent attorneys will be happy to clarify with you whether your software is suitable for patent protection, in particular whether it possesses the necessary technicality in the sense of the jurisdiction of the Federal Supreme Court. Contact us!
Does a European patent exist?
Yes, the European Patent Convention (EPC) is an intergovernmental agreement between the member states, including countries such as Switzerland and Turkey, which provides for a central grant procedure before the European Patent Office. It is not an institution of the European Union. After grant, the European patent is divided into individual national patents which enter into force in the countries in which they are validated, i.e. a representative is appointed and a translation is filed with the respective national office in their national language. Ultimately, a European patent will only enter into force as a bundle of national patents. However, this could still change. Although a so-called European patent with uniform effect for the European Union is in the works, it is currently on hold due to the concerns of the Federal Constitutional Court and not least because of the uncertainties in connection with Great Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
What does a patent cost?
The cost of filing a patent application depends on various factors, mainly on the countries in which a patent is sought. While the filing text only has to be prepared once, foreign applications usually require a translation into the national language as well as the local official fees for the application. Depending on the country, search or examination requests must also be filed for the grant procedure, for which official fees are also incurred. If experienced patent attorneys are used to prepare the application documents and accompany the proceedings, their fees will also be charged. Finally, patent applications and patents in most countries must be maintained by paying regular maintenance fees. Funding may also be available under certain circumstances. Your patent attorneys can find and pursue a suitable strategy together with you.
Which documents do I have to prepare for the patent attorney?
In basic terms, the documents in the form of an invention disclosure should be so complete that the invention can be understood from them. First, the prior art should be described, i.e. which solutions are already known. The known solutions usually have one or the other inadequacy, which represent a technical problem, which the invention is supposed to solve. Starting from this, the invention now differs by certain features, which should be emphasized in the description. Execution examples and drawings are always a good addition. If you do not yet have such documents, your patent attorneys will be happy to assist you in compiling them.
In which cases is my invention patentable?
For your invention to be considered patentable, it must be technical, i.e. solve a technical problem by technical means. An invention must also be commercially applicable. This is usually the case, but there are exceptions to the law, such as medical treatment procedures. The criteria that are most difficult to assess are novelty and inventive step, which depend entirely on the state of the art of your invention. You can obtain an overview of the state of the art by conducting a search. When assessing novelty and inventive step, it makes sense to consult an expert.
How long does the grant procedure take?
The duration of the grant procedure depends on the one hand very much on how the procedure is operated and on the other hand on the respective technical field and the capacity of the Patent Office existing in this technical field. Of course, the second aspect cannot be influenced, so that the duration of the grant procedure in the individual case can hardly be predicted exactly. However, if all processing is carried out immediately and the necessary applications are submitted immediately, a German patent can be granted after only a few months. The average grant period is approximately two to three years. If the proceedings are slow, e.g. the examination request is filed at the latest possible time after seven years, the granting of the patent can take many years.
My patent has been granted, is it safe for me now?
Although the granting of a patent is a strong indication of legally valid protection, it does not guarantee it. After a patent has been granted – this is the case, for example, with a German or European patent – there is usually a time limit within which third parties can file an opposition against the grant of the patent. Even after this period, an existing patent can be challenged by means of a patent nullity action. In such proceedings, the plaintiff must always prove that the subject matter was not grantable on the filing date or that errors in the grant procedure have occurred which justify revocation or a declaration of invalidity.
I want a patent in several countries. Do I have to apply everywhere at the same time?
No, this is not necessary. Each patent application establishes a right of priority according to the so-called Paris Convention, which opens up the possibility of subsequent applications in other member states for an application in one member state. These subsequent applications are then given priority over the initial application, i.e. they are treated as if they had been filed at the same time as the initial application. In the case of patents and utility models, the priority period is twelve months, during which the invention can first be worked on and published. If an identical subsequent application is then filed in another country of the Paris Convention with reference to the earlier right of priority, this will claim the seniority of the first application and the interim publication, as well as possible interim publications of third parties, will not be taken into account.
When should I take my invention to a patent attorney?
In short, as soon as possible. Depending on the degree of detail of the invention, it may be advisable to protect the invention at a very early stage. It may also be advisable to file an early application with a rough sketch of your invention first and to supplement any further developments in the course of development with further applications at a later date. It can also be useful to secure the various development steps with searches in order to guide the developments in the right direction.
Geitz Truckenmüller Lucht Christ
Your patent attorneys since 1969