Patents and utility models, the technical IPRs, protect technical developments as products and methods, including such methods which may be implemented by means of software.
A patent is an examined IPR, i.e. a patent is examined with respect to formal as well as to substantive requirements for protection by the respective grant authorities (e.g. the German Patent and Trademark Office (GPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO), the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)). In order to be patentable an invention must be new. This is examined by comparing the claimed invention to the prior art, i.e. the state of existing art. Also, the question whether an invention is inventive is examined based on the prior art. The term of a patent is 20 years from the date of filing of the patent application.
In order to obtain the desired territorial protection with a patent, there is a variety of strategies. In addition to the filing of national patents with the respective national authorities (e.g. with the GPTO for German patents or the USPTO for US patents) patents may also be filed with authorities representing regional organizations, e.g. with the EPO where patents are filed and granted pursuant to the European Patent Convention (EPC). The EPC has several additional contracting states in addition to the 27 contracting countries of the European Union. Additionally or alternatively, patent applications may also be filed as “international applications” pursuant to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) which has the effect of filing the same application simultaneously in over 140 countries and states.
Utility models are unexamined technical IPRs which have shorter temporal and limited territorial protection. However, utility models may very well be suitable as additional or alternative IPRs for patents.
Patent and utility model law is one of our specialties.