Germany has an ample legislation regarding the protection of intellectual property. The regulations refer to copyright, trademark, design, utility model and patent protection. All the laws have been drafted before Germany became an European Union member state but were subsequently modified and amended to be compatible to EU regulations regarding the protection of intellectual property. Here are the main laws providing the grounds for intellectual property protection in Germany:
The particularity of the German legislation is that the Civil Code also contains provisions about intellectual property protection. German inventors also have the possibility to register for intellectual property protection with the Community Trademarks.
Under the German Copyright Act only natural persons have the right to protection for their intellectual work. Protection of intellectual property in Germany is enabled immediately, no registration being needed in order for the creation to be acknowledged. Copyright protection is available during the author’s life and 70 years after his or her death. Copyrights can be inherited in Germany and licenses can be issued to those wanting to use another’s person creation. With respect to intellectual work created by employees, the German Copyright Act states that an employee will be granted protection while the employer will be granted a commercial license to make use of the work.
Designs mainly follow the same regulations as copyrights in Germany, except protection is enabled for only 25 years.
An invention can be patented if it is a new technical discovery and if it is suitable for commercial purposes. The application for registration of a patent in Germany will be submitted with the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA). It will take around three years for a patent to be examined and registered. Patents are protected for 20 years in Germany and they can be transferred.
Utility models must be original and fit for commercial use just like patents in order to be protected in Germany. The difference between patents and utility models lies in the fact that the three-year period for examination does not apply with German utility models and protection is only enabled from three to ten years.
According to the Trademark Act, German trademarks are protected against wrongful use of the same or similar signs or marks by third parties. Trademarks are registered with the Patent and Trademark Office in Germany and with the Office for Harmonization of the International Market (OHIM) at European level. Trademark protection is provided for an indefinite amount of time if the owner pays a renewal fee after the first five years and then after every ten years.
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