Patents protect technical aspects of an invention.

Many countries require formal and substantive examination of a patent application before a patent is granted. The invention dSPCribed must therefore meet certain requirements. For example, it must be novel, based on an inventive step and commercially applicable.

The patent grants its proprietor a right of prohibition. If a third party uses the protected invention without authorization, the patent proprietor can take action against the infringer. Typical claims asserted in court are injunctive relief and damages (see patent infringement).

Comparison of Patents and Utility Models

In several countries, including Germany, it is possible to apply for a utility model alongside or in addition to a patent. This is also a technical property right, but it is registered without substantive examination. The protectability of a utility model is only assessed in infringement proceedings before a court or cancellation proceedings before the Patent Office.

A comparison between a European or German patent and a German utility model shows further important differences:

  • The utility model has a maximum term of 10 years which is only half of that of a patent;
  • In general, a utility model cannot protect processes, for example manufacturing processes;
  • In contrast to a patent, an application can only be filed at a national level.

However, the rapid registration and the novelty grace period can offer advantages.

Comparison of Patent and Supplementary Protection Certificate

A Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) is an intellectual property right of its own kind. It can extend the term of protection of a basic patent for certain products by up to 5.5 years. The product protected by the basic patent must be either a human pharmaceutical product or a plant protection product.

A Protection Certificate grants the same rights as the basic patent. However, the Protection Certificate is only effective for the product named in the SPC for the approved use.

The protection category (substance, process) of the basic patent determines the protection category of the certificate.

At least in Germany, a utility model cannot establish a claim to an SPC.