How intellectual property relates to electronic commerce

What is intellectual property?

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For big companies only?

Do you think that industrial property rights are only worthwhile for large companies? No. Even and especially for small and medium-sized companies, it is valuable and worthwhile to work with industrial property rights. Patents, brands & Co. - if they are properly managed - make a significant contribution to the company's success. Effort and fees are much lower than you might think. Let yourself be advised and take advantage of offers of support when researching at the DPMA.

Please note: The information on this and the other SME pages is an overview. For legal subtleties, please use further information options or consult a patent attorney.

What is intellectual property anyway?

The term "intellectual property" - referred to internationally as "intellectual property (IP)" - includes property rights to creations of the human intellect (for example inventions, know-how, software). The term "industrial property rights" denotes the totality of rights that protect these individual intellectual achievements, such as patent and utility model law with regard to inventions or copyright law with regard to works of science, literature and art (including software).

There are several ways to protect intellectual property:

  • Intellectual Property Rights
    • Patents and utility models
    • Brands
    • Designs
  • Trade secrets
  • copyright and related rights

Industrial property rights: core competence of the DPMA

Registered industrial property rights offer reliable security for inventions, processes, brands, trademarks and designs, because by entering them in the register you can prove and assert your intellectual property rights quickly and easily.

What commercial property rights are there?

Have you made a technical invention or developed a new process that has not yet been published? Then you should consider applying for patent protection.

The patent gives its owner the exclusive right to dispose of his invention for up to twenty years. Nobody is allowed to use, manufacture, offer, market, import or use patented processes without a license.

Please note:

Any publication on the subject of your invention that occurs before the patent filing date jeopardizes the success of your application. This applies to publications as well as to public lectures, works, posters or abstracts for conferences and all kinds of online publications. Therefore: register first, then talk about it!

Have you made a technical development that you want to protect very quickly? A utility model application could be an attractive option.

A registered utility model protects like a patent, but the DPMA does not check whether the subject of the application is actually new and inventive. You can therefore obtain protection for up to ten years after just two to three months. However, you are responsible for ensuring that your invention is new. In any case, you must carefully examine the novelty of your invention in order to protect your utility model from being challenged by third parties.

Have you designed a new external shape and color for a product? Protect this design by registering it with the DPMA.

A registered design protects the external design of two- or three-dimensional products (e.g. fabrics or furniture). The shape and / or color of objects can be protected if "novelty and individuality" are given.

If you want to protect the trademark of a product or service, you can register this with us as a trademark.

Words and symbols, audio symbols, three-dimensional designs, colors or other symbols can be entered in the register as trademarks. The term of protection of a trademark is ten years and can be extended as often as required.
You can also register property rights with the DPMA for, among other things, geographical indications of origin and topographies.

What can I not have protected by the DPMA?

So-called "soft IP", for example works protected by copyright or trade secrets, cannot be officially registered and therefore not registered with the DPMA.

What is a "trade secret"?

This is understood to be confidential business information that is only known to a certain group of people within a company and that is not allowed to leak to the outside world. For example, your customer directory, recipes, a specific manufacturing method or your in-house type of material treatment. In their employment contracts, companies can oblige their employees to keep business or trade secrets.

For developments and procedures that you may have kept a trade secret up to now, a registered property right may also be an option.

Copyright and related rights

Copyright protects personal and intellectual creations. It is created without formal registration and is free of charge: a work is considered to be protected by copyright as soon as it is created. In the event of a dispute, it is crucial that you can prove the date of origin and the originality or novelty of your creation. The author has the exclusive right to use his work and to grant or deny permission to others. For example, he can prohibit or approve the sale, reproduction or translation of the work.

Caution is advised in international business, because copyright differs from country to country.

It should also be noted that the concept of work in copyright law is not clearly and objectively defined and that the courts therefore examine and evaluate each creation individually.

Fees that pay off

The official fees for filing and registering your property right are lower than you might think. Registering a patent in electronic form costs only 40 euros. The utility model costs 30 euros for electronic registration until the next maintenance fee after three years.

For the registration of a trademark (for three classes of goods and / or services) and the maintenance of trademark protection for ten years, fees of 290 euros apply for electronic applications. The electronic design application costs 60 euros for the protection period of five years.

You can find an overview of the fees for registering your property right with the DPMA in our flyer An overview of property rights and in detail in our Cost sheet.

Image 1: iStock.com/jacobammentorplund, Image 2: iStock.com/pogonici

Status: 08/10/2019