The Quick and Easy Guide to German and EU Intellectual Property Law, Trademarks and Copyright
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German Inellectual Property Laws – an Overview

Under German law, intellectual property is divided into seven main categories, and each of them is regulated by specific laws. The protection provided under these laws differs in terms of the type of intellectual property protected, origination and duration of protection.

Copyright (Copright Act – UrhG): protects personal, intellectual creations (e.g. photographic works, books, musical works). Protection originates from creation itself. Protection lasts for up to seventy years after creator has deceased.

Trademarks (Trademark Act- MarkenG): protects trademarks (registered and unregistered ), commercial designations and indications of geographic origin. Trademarks are protected from the moment of registration (or in case of unregistered trademarks as soon as relevant pre-conditions are met). Registered trademarks are protected for 10 years from registration; registration may be renewed for periods of 10 years. Without registration protection lasts as long as relevant legal pre-conditions are met.

Patents (Patent Act – PatG): protected are technical inventions that are based on inventive activities and that can be commercially applied. Protected from date patent is granted. Duration of a patent is up to 20 years.

Utility patent (Utility Patent Act – GebrMG): protected are technical inventions that are based on an inventive step and that can be commercially applied (technical and chemical procedures can not be protected by utility patents!). Protected from date utility patent is granted. Protection period can last up to max. 10 years in total. The difference to the patent lies mainly in the patent assessment. Before a “real” patent is granted, the inventive edge is actually evaluated. In contrary the assessment of a utility patent is a mere formal procedure (hence the term “petty patent”). This also means that a utility patent offers less protection and above all certainty than a patent as the inventive edge may be challenged at a later stage. Advantage: it is quicker and easier to obtain than a patent.

Design patent (Design Patent Act – GeschMG): protects novel industrial ornamental designs and models (e.g. fashion). Requires registration to be protected. Can be protected for up to 20 years.

Plant variety protection (Plant Variety Protection Act – SortSchG): it´s all in the name. Protected are novel, distinguishable, consistent and homogeneous plants. Requires registration to be protected. Can be protected between 25 to 30 years.

Semiconductor protection (Semiconductor Protection Act – HalblSchG): protected is the topography of a semiconductor if they are characteristic. Protected if registered within 2 years from first commercial exploitation. Protected for 10 years.

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May 7, 2009   No Comments