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Register a patent - tips from a specialist trademark lawyer!

This article explains everything you need to know if you want to register a patent.

In Germany, a good 70,000 patents or utility models are applied for every year. Patents are granted for only a few of the inventions submitted. From an economic point of view, not all inventions are successful.

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Do you need help applying for a patent? Call us at 040 3501 6360 or write an e-mail to info@kanzlei-bennek.de.

To minimize the financial risk of an unsuccessful patent application, a lawyer should be contacted in advance.


  1. First things first
  2. Register a patent: Costs
  3. Register a patent: Requirements
  4. How you can patent your invention
  5. Conclusion

1. First things first

If you have invented something that you want to exploit commercially, the obvious thing to do is to apply for a patent.

However, the risk of investing in a patent for nothing is very high.

Furthermore, a patent in itself is not the same as permission to actually exploit the invention commercially. This is simply because there are property rights, such as trademark rights, which do not have a negative impact on the patent, but do have a negative impact on commercial exploitation.

This is often the case if earlier inventions were not correctly identified by the patent office or had not yet been published at the time the patent application was filed. In addition, licensing rights may become necessary if you have merely further developed an existing patented product. A patent is therefore merely a property right that entitles you to prohibit the use of your invention by others for a maximum of 20 years.

An important question before applying for a patent is therefore the expected commercial success.

Inventors generally do not have the necessary experience to make such an assessment. It is therefore advisable to instruct an attorney to carry out a kind of preliminary examination. The lawyer can not only tell you whether a patent application would be successful, but also whether you can actually exploit your invention in such a way that it is financially worthwhile for you. A patent application is anything but cheap.

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2. Register a patent: Costs

The application at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office costs EUR 40 for ten patent claims.

If you have further patent claims, you have to pay an additional EUR 20 for each additional claim. But that's not all.

A fee of EUR 300 is charged for the search. There is also an examination fee of EUR 150.

At first glance, the total costs of at least EUR 490 may not seem much. However, if the invention has no prospect of commercial success, things look quite different. You should be really sure that your invention can be sold or licensed.

The technical property right is still the only way to successfully protect an invention if the inventor presents it to interested licensees.

Many inventors make the mistake of using a so-called deposit (priority protection), which is merely a documentation of authorship and offers no effective protection.

This also applies to non-disclosure agreements, as these only protect important information from being made public without authorization. However, they do not constitute proof that you actually came up with the invention first.

3. Register a patent: Requirements

  • A technical description of your business idea or invention
  • the wording of your patent claims, i.e. the scope of protection
  • a drawing or sketch of the invention or idea
  • a summary of the invention/idea comprising a maximum of 1,500 characters
  • the name of the creator

4. How you can patent your invention

Depending on the invention, there are various patenting options and different terms for each patent:

  • Patent application
  • Application for a utility model
  • trademark protection
  • Design protection

We have already looked at the patent application and its costs. Now let's take a brief look at the other options.

If you have made a technical invention, such as foodstuffs, medicines or chemical substances, you can apply for a utility model at the DPMA. In contrast to a patent, registration in the trade mark register only takes a few weeks instead of several years. You cannot apply for a utility model for:

  • Construction plans
  • manufacturing processes
  • scientific theories
  • work processes

You can use trademark protection for services that you have invented. For example, trademark law protects

  • service ideas
  • slogans
  • haptic trademarks
  • colors
  • signals

The protection for these lasts up to ten years. You can protect visual signs against unauthorized use with design protection. Registered designs are, for example

  • two-dimensional patterns (fabrics, wallpaper, etc.)
  • three-dimensional objects (toys, cars, furniture, etc.)

By registering a design, you secure the exclusive right to use it for at least five years. However, you can extend this to up to 25 years.

5. Conclusion

Nevertheless, the risks and opportunities of such patenting should be carefully weighed up against each other. This is particularly important with regard to your own financial circumstances.

If you get a lawyer on board, you are always on the safe side!

As there are different types of patenting and the validity of each patent varies, it is essential to be well informed. So feel free to ask for advice!

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Picture credits: © Boris Zerwann / panthermedia.net

Marco Bennek
I started working as a lawyer in 2006 and have been advising clients in competition and trademark law for more than 10 years. Since June 2015 I have been a specialist attorney for industrial property rights and since May 2013 a partner in the firm of HELMKE Attorneys at Law and Tax Advisors and Patent Attorneys. I studied law in Hamburg, Madrid, and Wellington (New Zealand) and hold a Master of Laws (LL.M.).
Rechtsanwalt Marco Bennek
Lawyer Marco Bennek – trademark law, copyright, competition law and IT law in Hamburg
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