Employee Inventions

Unlike many other countries, Germany has a specific law on employee inventions. A formalized procedure regulates the transfer of ownership of an employee’s invention to the employer, who is entitled to file a patent or utility model application and may exploit the invention. In principle, any invention made by an employee in the framework of his professional activity is attributed to the employer. In return, the employer has to compensate the employee by paying an adequate remuneration. In case of dispute, an official proposal for settlement by the Arbitration Board for Employee Inventions at the German Patent and Trademark Office may be obtained. In most cases, the parties accept this proposal. Only a few cases are litigated before the civil courts.

Effective as of October 1, 2009, an important change of the German Act on Employee Inventions entered into force, relating to the transfer of ownership of the invention from the employee to the employer. Before October 1, 2009, the employee had to immediately notify the employer of an invention. The employer had to formally claim the invention within four months from notification; otherwise the invention remained in the sole ownership of the employee. As of October 1, 2009, the employee is still obliged to immediately notify the employer of an invention. However, if the employer remains passive, the ownership of the invention is automatically transferred to the employer upon expiration of the four months deadline.

The old law remains effective for all employee inventions which were notified by the employee to the employer before October 1, 2009. Only inventions notified by the employee to the employer as of October 1, 2009, are treated under the new law. Summing up, the recent change of the law facilitates the handling of employee inventions for the employer and avoids an unjustified loss of rights of the employer.

For more information on Employee Inventions, see our online-series "BARDEHLE PAGENBERG Concise Knowledge".