On 1 January and 1 April 2014, a number of changes were made to German design law and the German Patent Act.
Patent applications may now be submitted to the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) in any language, provided that a German translation is submitted as well.
In the case of patent applications submitted in English or French, the submission period for the German translation has been extended from three to 12 months after the application date and 15 months after the priority date. If the German translation is not submitted within this period of time, the application will be withdrawn. However, the application date will be maintained. In accordance with European patent law, examiners must examine applications that have been submitted in English or French straight away. They will then be able to inform the applicant of the patentability of his application. This will avoid a situation in which the applicant is forced to incur unnecessary translation costs.
During the procedure, hearings will be held on request. These hearings will, in principle, be held in public. The period of time in which it will be possible to register a notice of objection has been extended from three to nine months and, as such, now corresponds with the European procedure.
Finally, the DPMA has also proceeded to make documents available in a digital format. This is a major step in the right direction. It is possible to use the digital register maintained by the DPMA to access all of the patents, registered utility models and applications that have been submitted since 21 January 2013, free of charge.
The Utility Model Act to become the ‘Designgesetz’
The German Utility Model Act (Geschmacksmustergesetz) has recently undergone a name change and is now known as the "Designgesetz". In addition, special invalidity proceedings have been introduced for designs that have been registered with the DPMA. These cases will be handled by a department that has been created specifically for that purpose. Until recently, it was only possible to submit a request for the invalidity of a design to the district court.
Another amendment relates to the subject of multiple applications. In the past, designs were required to fall under the same class. Under the amended Act, it is possible for designs from different classes to form part of one multiple application.