The Patent Application - An Important Step
Congratulations! You have made an invention from which you hope to achieve economic success. With a patent application, you can usually protect your intellectual property for up to 20 years (sometimes even longer). This enables you either to earn money by granting licenses or to start your own business based on the invention. "The patent system added the fuel of financial interest to the fire of inventiveness," said Abraham Lincoln. We would like to support you in taking your idea far.
Before you go to the Patent Office to file an application for your invention, you should first check whether your invention meets the criteria of the DPMA, the German Patent Trademark Office, or the European Patent Office (EPO).
The invention you want to patent must be new. The device or procedure that you wish to apply for may not be derived in an obvious way from the current state of the art, i.e. it must be "inventive". The current state of the art is everything that has already been published. No matter whether documents were published in writing or someone exhibited an invention at a trade fair or described it in a speech. All this is regarded as “state of the art” – even if it has been published in a foreign language and on the other side of the world or shown at exhibitions.
To check if someone has had the same idea as you, you should perform thorough research.
Tip: Check your application before filing it with the DPMA or EPO:
- Novelty (worldwide)
- Inventive step (must not be obvious from the state of the art).
- Technicity (only technical inventions can be patented, business ideas or software only in certain cases)
- Commercial applicability (usually no major hurdle)
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Patent Application with the German or European Patent Office
You can either apply for the patent in electronic form at the German Patent and Trademark Office in Munich (application fee 40 EUR), or you can apply for it in paper form in Munich or at the offices in Jena or Berlin. Then the fees are 60 Euro. Your invention must be described precisely (see below for more details). The patent application is first examined for form and obvious obstacles. The date of filing is decisive as well if another person wishes to file a patent application for a similar invention. In order to set the actual procedure in motion, however, the request for examination must also be made. The fees at the DPMA for this are 350 euros. A European patent application is significantly more expensive. After registering, you have a maximum of seven years to apply for the examination, but it is advisable to apply for the examination immediately. It can take two and a half to three years for a patent to be granted. However, within nine to eleven months you will receive a decision from the patent office informing you about your chances. An experienced patent attorney can help you complete the application procedure in due form and time.
Patent Application in Germany, Europe, or Worldwide?
The German Patent and Trademark Office in Munich can only grant you a patent for Germany. European costs are also significantly higher. We recommend you first apply for the patent in Germany only. If you plan to market your product internationally, you have the so-called "priority right" for twelve months. This means you can file the European or international (PCT) patent application within twelve months. Nevertheless, the filing date with the Patent Office in Germany is considered the reference date (priority date). If you have filed the request for examination at the same time as the patent application, you will know in good time what the German Patent Office has to say about your chances. Then you can still apply for your patent in other countries. Let us advise you individually on the right strategy for your purpose.
Register a Patent for Europe
For later marketing in Europe, you can apply for the patent at the European Patent Office in Munich. The latter conducts a procedure based on the European Patent Convention. These include 38 contracting states, including those that do not belong to the EU, such as Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey. If the European Patent Office grants a patent, it becomes a protective right according to the respective national provisions of the contracting states. You can also select in which states you want to apply for the patent.
Patent Application for Other Countries
There is no international patent. You can apply to the DPMA in Munich for a patent under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The application is forwarded to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The first research phase takes place on an international level. However, the procedures are then carried out in the individual countries in which you want to apply for a patent, and national patents are granted in each case. 152 states have signed the treaty. The application process can be accelerated by participating in the Global Patent Prosecution Highway.
Trade Secrets and Disclosure at the Patent Office
Would you like to set up a company whose business idea includes a technical invention that you want to patent? Then don't go public with the details too soon. On the one hand, your statements or publications are also considered "prior art", which can make your patent application more difficult. On the other hand, imitators could copy your invention before you hold the patent in your hands or at least have applied for the patent. The patent office will protect your secret for 18 months after filing the application. Your patent application will then appear in the DPMA register. This publication by the Patent Office is made irrespective of whether you have already filed the request for examination or not. From the application you already have certain security, since no one can obtain a patent on your invention now.
The Patent Application - Formal
The patent application consists of several parts:
Description: Here the invention is revealed as precisely as possible.
Claims: The claims express what exactly is to be protected by the patent description. In particular, claim 1 contains all the features of the invention that absolutely must be present. Additional features that may be, but do not have to be, are in the subordinate claims. The patent claims should be drafted with special attention, because if too many features are disclosed in the patent claims, then the scope of protection of the patent is very small. Patent claims or patents with too narrow a scope of protection may then be easily circumvented. To check whether patent infringement has occurred, one takes the patent claims and "reads them" on the object suspected of infringing the patent. If all features of the patent claim can be found in the infringing subject/ plagiarism, a patent infringement exists.
Drawings: Besides the normal description, there is also a description of the figures, which explains the content of the drawings. Particularly preferred forms of the invention should be presented here.
Summary: The summary should not be longer than 1500 characters. When filing the application, an inventor should be designated. Foreign applicants are obliged to consult a lawyer if they wish to apply for a patent. However, the support of an experienced patent attorney is advisable for all those who deal with the patent office.
The application of an invention for a patent costs money. Many founders do not have so much available in this phase. The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology promotes patenting through the WIPANO project. It is possible to get up to 50 percent of the costs reimbursed. This also includes those for patent attorneys.