Intellectual property covers a wide range of protective rights provided to protect the results of achievements in technical areas, trademarks and trade names as well as designs.
A patent is a protective right which has been examined as for patentability. In Germany, the protection is obtained by applying for a patent in the German Patent and Trademark Office, fulfilling some formal requirements and proofing the patentability of the subject matter of the application; the formal and material requirements being laid down in the German Patent Law (PatG).
Trademarks are the most well known examples for the protection of workings in the trade. Trademarks can be registered for marks which are adapted to distinguish the goods and/or services of an enterprise from the services of other enterprises. Also names of enterprises, domain names, geographical origin designations can be protected. In Germany, trademarks are ruled by the German Law for the Protection of Trademarks and Other Marks (MarkenG).
In Germany, another protective right, the utility model (Gebrauchsmuster) is offered. In contrast to a patent, the utility model is registered without an examination as to material requirements for the protection. The material requirements are, however, examined later in case a request for nullification of the utility model is filed. The relevant law is the German Utility Model Law (GebrMG).
Designs may be protected by a design patent which pertains to the outer appearance of a product, like a textile design, jewellery, or of industrial products, like machine parts or automobile parts. Designs are protected in Germany according to the Design Law (GeschmMG).
Also plant varieties can be protected by the Law for Protecting Varieties (SortG) if the new varieties fulfil the material requirements laid down in this law.
Furthermore, there is a special protection for topography inventions which pertains to three-dimensional structures of micro electronic semiconductor products which structures can be protected by the Semiconductor Protection Law (HLSchG).
One of the possibilities to commercially exploit protective rights is to issue licenses. For such a license, there are no formal requirements but a license agreement is required. The license agreement should define the purpose of the agreement, the protective rights concerned, the time frame of the agreement as well as licensing fees and related payments.
In Germany, there is a special Law for Inventions Made by Employees, the so called “Arbeitnehmer-Erfindergesetz” (ArbNErfG) which defines the rights and obligations of the employers and the employees as well, and in particular the remuneration due to the inventors that have made an invention within the environment of the company.