According to sec. 1 para. 1 PatG, patents are only granted for inventions which are
- based on an invenntive step, and
- industrially applicable.
A further requirement which nowadays becomes more and more important in view of the rising number of applications for computer implemented inventions (CII) is the requirement of technical character of an invention.
An invention is novel, if it not known from prior art. In patent law, prior art comprises every written or oral disclosure which is accessible to public as well as every domestic and foreign use (absolute novelty). This means for the inventor or a company that an invention has to be kept secret prior to filing otherwise it might not fulfill the novelty requirement.
In contrast to utility models, the patent is subject to an examination procedure in which a substantive examination with respect to patentability is conducted.
The patent – as also the utility model or a trademark – can be transferred to another person or company. The duration of a patent is 20 years at a maximum from the application date on.
The European Patent Office (EPO) located in Munich offers a common application and granting procedure for all member states and extension states which comprise not only all countries of the European Union but also many further countries. At present, the European Patent Convention (EPC) covers a total of 39 countries of member and extension states.
A European patent application can be filed with the EPO in either one of the three official languages German, English or French. In the application procedure, the EPO carries out a prior art search and a substantive examination. After granting of a European patent, the latter is decomposed into as many national patents as have been applied for during the application procedure. Nullity proceedings can only be conducted on a national basis for every country in which the European patent has been nationalized.
The maximum duration of a European patent is twenty years from the application date on.
An international patent application can be filed for all member states of the Patent Corporation Treaty with the International Bureau (IB) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) located in Geneva, Switzerland. A prior art search and an optional examination procedure are, however, carried out by other authorities, as, for example, the European Patent Office (EPO). The result of an substantive examination during an international application procedure is not binding for the national or regional authorities of the countries in which an international application is nationalized or regionalized after the common application procedure.