Areas of work
The options for protecting one’s own products from being imitated are very diverse and, taken together, offer an effective means of safeguarding one’s own intellectual property and proving one’s own innovative power in a way that is effective for advertising purposes:
- The PATENT is the most well-known and most frequently used technical property right. It provides protection, limited in time (max. 20 years) for technical devices, chemical substances and technical processes, as well as for the products directly manufactured by these means. A patent is granted following an examination of the protectability by the patent office, as a result of which a patent, which can be called an ‘examined property right’, has a higher level of legal security.
- The UTILITY MODEL is very similar to the patent and is frequently viewed as a “petty patent”. It provides protection, limited in time (max. 10 years) for technical devices and chemical substances – processes are explicitly excluded from utility model protection. Registration takes place quickly (usually after approximately four months), but without any examination of the protectability by the patent office, as a result of which a utility model, which can be called an ‘unexamined property right’, has a lower level of legal security.
- The TRADEMARK provides an indication of origin of a product or service. It signifies quality and is intended to produce an effect of recognition in the buyer to encourage him to buy this particular product or to choose this particular service provider out of the diverse range of goods and services on offer. This applies both to consumer products and investment goods.
- The DESIGN PATENT protects a design, i.e. the aesthetic form of a product. An aesthetically appealing product design can be very memorable for the customer, cause them to value it highly and thus become a key buying criterion in the same way as the quality of the product or its technical functionality; the latter two criteria may perhaps be more similar within a product segment than an individual design. Consequently a design may, for companies, also be property worth protecting.
If one looks at the possibilities offered by these four types of industrial property rights, it is apparent that in combination, by means of the relevant property right for the different aspects of a product – technical function (patent or utility model), indication of origin (trademark) and external appearance (design patent) – comprehensive protection against imitation can be created and one’s own freedom to operate protected.
In all instances, before filing an application, it may make sense to research existing property rights in order to avoid infringing property rights of third parties and in order, at an early stage of a development, to delimit one’s own interests against the interests of third parties.
In addition, the development of new products within companies is inextricably linked to EMPLOYEE INVENTION LAW, as these developments are based on inventions by employees and only pass to the employer by means of employee invention law. Since the assessment as to whether the idea of an employee is inventive, and therefore eligible for patent or utility model protection, is performed according to the criteria of patent or utility model law, something which the patent attorney is very familiar with, this field of law also falls within the sphere of competence of patent attorneys.