Modernization of IP law in Germany

Published on: 19 February 2014
by Dr. Malte Köllner, Head of Dennemeyer Foreign Filing

The recent amendment of the German Patent and Design Laws and further developments announced by the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) over the past few months, set the premises of a busy 2014 for the patent community. The reform includes a change of name for the German designs, the launch of an electronic file inspection procedure, and an extension for filing English and French translations of German patent applications.

Renaming German designs: from "Geschmacksmuster" to "eingetragenes Design"

In October 2013, the German Design Law has been amended with the aim of facilitating procedures for designs. To this effect, starting from 1 January 2014 the German designs, previously called "Geschmacksmuster", are renamed "eingetragenes Design", the linguistic equivalent of "registered design". The adaptation in terminology is intended to make it easier for the international general public and field experts to understand and work with the subject matter.

The amended law also introduces cancellation proceedings. Up until now, it wasn’t possible to have German registered designs cancelled or nullified at the DPMA, and invalidity proceedings had to be filed before regional courts. These, however, had proven to be very expensive. The current amendment allows anyone to file an application for invalidity of a registered design directly with the DPMA. This not only lowers the costs, but at the same time it will facilitate and speed up the procedure.

Another practical amendment is to allow a multiple application to include designs belonging to different classes of goods, translating to increased cost effectiveness for those seeking to register their designs, and hopefully more German registered designs.

Finally, notifications related to exhibition protection will be more accessible as well. These will be published in the Federal Law Gazette (Bundesgesetzblatt), which is available online, as opposed to the Federal Gazette (Bundesanzeiger), where such notifications were previously published.

Online inspection of patent and utility model files

On 7 January 2014, the DPMA has launched an online platform allowing applicants to view documents or at least parts of patent and utility model related files online. The information service will only be available for published applications, and includes office actions, decisions, search reports as well as communications relevant to the procedure and other parts of files in PDF format.

All granted patents, registered utility models as well as all patent applications that have been published on or after 21 January 2013 will be available on the DPMA online portal. For files that have not yet been made available for inspection, you can request via the portal to have these documents made available online.

Filing a written request for file inspection will still be possible, although if you do not specify in your request your preference for viewing the content of the file, it will be made available online.

Viewing files that have already been made available for inspection is as easy as entering the file number and clicking on the button "File inspection" on the DPMAregister portal, which will direct you to the respective files. The platform can be accessed free of charge at the following address:

Further optimization for patent applicants

A press release published on the DPMA website on October 24, 2013 communicated a revised German Patent Act, that will enter into force on April 1, 2014. The amendments aim to optimize patent matters and make proceedings before the DPMA more transparent, customer oriented, efficient and flexible.

Here are the key provisions:

  • The time limit for filing a German translation of a patent application filed in English or French is extended to 12 months. This allows applicants with English and French specifications to file in Germany without a translation and even have a first office action before they have to file a German translation.
  • The search report will also include a preliminary assessment of the examiner on the patentability of the subject matter claimed. So the DPMA is harmonizing its respective practice with that of the EPO and the PCT proceedings.
  • The opposition period against patents is extended from three to nine months, again harmonizing with European provisions.
  • Opposition proceedings will in the future all be public.