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Friday, 3 October 2008

German Employee Inventors Law: are their changes on the way?

The eldest member of the IPKat blogging team (Jeremy) spent his formative days as a legal researcher delving into the laws relating to employee inventors. He was fascinated by the German law which, based on early 20th century collective agreements, seemed to him to resemble a vastly complicated but brilliantly balanced machine -- a machine which was almost resistant to tinkering because any one change would spoil the balance. He has now learned from a News Flash from the 24IP Law Group of Munich patent and trade mark attorneys Sonnenberg Fortmann that the German law may at last be in for a major overhaul. According to the News Flash:

"The German government is currently discussing major changes to the German Act on Employees’ Inventions to simplify and streamline the existing provisions. The most significant of the changes is the replacement of the current requirement to claim the rights to the invention by a “fictive claiming” of the inventions by the employer. The current law states that an employee must inform their employer about any invention that the employee makes. This information must be filed as an invention disclosure in writing and signed by the inventors. The employer had to actively claim the rights to this invention within 4 months from the date of receipt of the invention disclosure. Should the invention not be claimed within this time
period, then the invention becomes the inventor’s private property. He or she is
entitled to file a patent or utility model application and to license the invention to other companies (including competitors).

Once the changes become law, the employer will not longer be obliged to actively claim the rights to the invention. The rights to the invention will simply be
transferred to the employer once the four month period has expired. The risk to employers of losing their rights to the invention will be removed. The company will no longer need to monitor the deadline.

Other formal changes are also being discussed. In future it will be possible to file
invention disclosures or make other submissions in any “text form”, i.e. not just in writing with a signature. It will be possible for an employee to file an invention disclosure by email or even by mobile phone text. It will be necessary to demonstrate that the email or message was received.

The changes in the law will not remove the need to pay compensation to the inventors for use of the invention or change the method of calculating the level of reasonable compensation due.

Changes have been proposed in the past, but those proposals have found no consensus and will therefore not be introduced at this stage".

Some great German inventors here (the video console), here (the petrol powered automobile), here (the electric elevator) and here (the extraction of alumina from bauxite). The IPKat is fascinated by the notion of making invention disclosures by text message -- but Merpel says, think twice before using Skype unless you want to gift your invention to the Chinese too!


Anonymous said...

We think your title has been mistyped - should it read "- are their chances on the wane?"?


Anonymous said...

Do you mean "are there"?

Jeremy said...

I prefer the first suggestion but actually meant the second. Apologies for the error -- one of the perils of speed-blogging!

Sex Panther said...

I think that altering the German Employee Inventor Law to make the employer no longer actively inclined to claim the rights on the invention is a bad idea and am glad that a consensus to change the law has not bee reached. I think it’s unfair that the rights are simply transferred to the employer, and that the fear of them losing the right will be removed. This takes away the employees’ incentive to be creative and come up with new ideas.

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