Patents concern technical inventions and are subject to an official examination procedure that usually takes several years. Only after successful examination the patent is granted and unfolds its protection. However, due to the extensive examination by the patent office, legal validity is largely assured, so that a patent represents a strong protective right. Products such as devices, arrangements and substances as well as processes can be protected by a patent.
Based on a German patent application, further follow-up applications for the same invention can be filed within one year (so-called priority period), if, for example, patent protection is desired for other European countries or even worldwide.
The main claim is always decisive for the scope of protection of a patent. Only what is claimed there is protected. Expert advice is always advisable for the formulation of one’s own claims and the interpretation of the claims of third-party patents, which are often formulated in a less than catchy manner. This is the only way to ensure that no third-party rights are infringed and that your invention is actually accurately represented by the claim wording. The trick is to abstract the essential and necessary features of the invention and to claim only these, so that the best possible circumvention solutions not covered by the scope of protection of the claims are excluded.
A granted patent provides protection for a maximum of 20 years from the filing date.
The utility model is the little brother of the patent. A utility model protects a new and industrially applicable technical invention based on an inventive step. Like the patent protection, the utility model can be applied for in all fields of technology. However, protection of processes (e.g. working methods) is not possible.
In contrast to the patent, the utility model is not examined by the German Patent and Trademark Office for novelty and inventive step. This results in a very fast registration of the utility model within a few weeks, so that you can protect your invention very quickly. However, the disadvantage is that the probability is correspondingly higher that the subject matter of the invention is not legally valid. Such an examination then becomes necessary at the latest when taking action against possible infringers.
As a further difference to the patent, the protection period of a utility model is only a maximum of 10 years from the filing date. However, based on the utility model, national or international patent applications can also be filed within the one-year priority period, as with the patent.
Trademarks are identifiers for goods or services and can be words, pictorial representations or other graphically representable elements, which also include so-called sound marks, such as the well-known Exquisa melody. A registered trademark serves to distinguish goods and services of a company with regard to their origin. The public associates certain ideas of quality with the trademark, which are guaranteed by the trademark owner.
A registered design protects the design, i.e. the external appearance and the shape and color of products. After registration of the design, only the owner has the right to use it. Since the design is registered without an official substantive examination, protection can be obtained quickly at favourable conditions. In the event of a dispute, the protectability of the design is legally presumed in favour of the owner. So in case of doubt, the potential infringer must prove the lack of protectability.