Patent Protection - Overview

Hand with computer chip and motherboard

Protection for your technical inventions

Commercially successful ideas are often copied or imitated – from everyday objects to sophisticated high-tech products. You can use patents to protect your technical inventions (innovative products or processes) against unwanted imitation.
Patent proprietors gain a territorial monopoly right of use for a limited period. At the same time, patents are an important source of information since the publication of an invention is an incentive for further research and development. Inventors and consumers equally benefit from this promotion of innovation and increased knowledge.

Patents make it easier to take business decisions


pdf-Datei Information brochure on patent protection

Patents also play an important role in business decision-making processes. Patents show strategies and development trends and are an incentive for the further development of the state of the art.
Patents can also be an important factor in the evaluation of companies.
The patent portfolio of a company is a valuable asset and reveals the innovative potential of a company. Patent protection strengthens the position of an enterprise in the global market and is a significant location factor.

Significance for technology transfer

Furthermore, IP rights can increase motivation of a company’s staff. If a company files a patent application for an employee’s invention, that employee is entitled to remuneration.
Patents also play an important role in technology transfer. They can help find partners for further developments and business cooperation, or they can be useful when a company applies for funding. Patents contribute to compensating for high development costs. Successful marketing strategies allow reinvestment, which in turn is a driving force for research and development.

An invention is protected for 20 years

A patent is not automatically created when you file an invention at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA). First, a legally prescribed examination procedure must have been conducted and concluded with a positive result. During that procedure, it will be examined whether the subject matter of the application is new to a person skilled in the art, based on an inventive step, whether the invention is disclosed in a way that allows it to be carried out and whether it is capable of industrial application. The exclusive right of use and the right to prevent others from using the invention come into effect with the publication of the grant in the Patent Gazette (Patentblatt). A granted patent is in force for a maximum of 20 years, counted from the day following the application. However, there are exceptions for medicinal and plant protection products.

Cross-border protection is possible

The most important links concerning patent applications

All IP rights including patents are subject to the principle of territoriality and only have effect in the country or territory for which they were granted. Therefore, rights conferred by a patent granted by the DPMA can only be asserted in Germany.

It is of course also possible to extend a patent application at the DPMA to other countries. For more information, please go to the section "Patent Protection Outside Germany".

Licensing inventions

If you are the proprietor of a patent, you can exploit your invention and secure an exclusive position in the market. You have the means to make it difficult or even impossible for competitors to enter a specific market segment. And you can also sell, bequeath or license your patent. A licence from the patent proprietor allows the licensee to exploit the patent against the payment of licence fees.

You can search online in DPMAregister for inventions for which a declaration of willingness to grant a licence pursuant to Section 23 of the Patent Act (Patentgesetz) or a non-binding declaration of being interested in licensing has been made. Our search options support applicants and proprietors of IP rights with finding licensees, and enterprises and business consultants with finding licensors. For more information, also regarding a reduction of the annual renewal fee if a declaration of willingness to grant a licence pursuant to Section 23 of the Patent Act has been made, please refer to the leaflet " pdf-Datei Information for Patent Applicants".

Utility models – the fast alternative to patents

The non-binding declaration of being interested in licensing can also be made for Utility Models the fast and low-cost alternative to patents. Utility models provide similar protection as patents with the difference that registration procedures are significantly shorter since the inventions are not technically examined (and can therefore be more easily challenged).

Getting an overview of the state of the art

Patent searches unlock the state of the art relevant for the inventions described in patent applications. Searching patent databases and literature may help avoid expensive and unnecessary duplication of development. Patent searches also prevent the risk of infringing other IP rights. Searches allow you to better estimate the risk of revocation actions against your IP right.

The DPMA provides you with the best search options online and directly at our office in order to ascertain the current state of the art.

More information

Related links

Patent Act (Patentgesetz)
pdf-Datei Patent Ordinance (Patentverordnung)

We have compiled general information about patent protection on these pages. Should you have any questions or require further information, please refer to our information leaflets or, in cases of doubt, to the Patent Act or Patent Ordinance.


Last updated: 11 August 2022