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UNITARY PATENT

In 2012 Member States and the European Parliament agreed on the "patent package" - a legislative initiative consisting of two...

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German Patent Law Amendment Approved

Preferential Treatment to Applications filed in English and French.
The German Patent Office (DPMA) accepts applications filed in any language. All application documents must be submitted in German three months after filing. Amongst the changes, one point in particular could be of great interest to foreign applicants, namely the preferential treatment of patent applications filed with the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) in English or French, over other foreign language applications. The German Patent Law Amendment provides for an extension of the 3-month period to 12 months for English and French documents.

Many inventors rely on the search results of a German first filing to gain a realistic insight into relevant prior art within 9-10 months after filing to determine whether an invention is new and therefore, in principle, patentable. Thereafter, the applicant may consider filing a further application with the European Patent Office in a different language, often English, based on those results. This effectively means that international applicants filing a German patent application in either of these two languages need only translate their application into German if they choose to actively pursue grant in Germany i.e. on the basis of positive search results. On the other hand, a foreign filing decision for an application in the English or French language can be based on search results received from the German application within the priority year.

Preliminary Patentability Assessment
Another key change is that the search report will include a first, tentative assessment of the patentability requirements of novelty and inventive step similar to European and international practice.

Online File Inspection
Online electronic file inspection will be possible in future, obviating the need to follow the cumbersome system currently in place, which requires filing an official request with the Patent Office and then having to obtain copies of the file on site in Munich.

Comment
These amendments to the current legislation go some way to improving the conditions for both international and other innovative companies, particularly SMEs, in the German market, and make the services of the DPMA a more appealing option. Many of the measures reduce red tape and costs, potentially making future German patent applications cheaper and easier to prosecute. Furthermore, the changes will enable patent applicants to have a better idea as to whether their innovation is likely to result in a German patent at an early stage. The availability of electronic file inspection will bring the German Patent Office in line with the WIPO, EPO, USPTO and UKIPO who all already offer copies of the full prosecution file of all published patent applications to interested parties at the click of a button.

Earlier this year, the German Parliament and Federal Council approved a new German Patent Law Amendment which is now due to be enacted in early 2014.