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Learning from the German Employee Invention Act?

German Law

Germany is one of the few countries in Europe where the regulations and fees for employee inventions are clearly laid down in an Employee Invention Act. Other countries, including the Netherlands, should take this as an example. What can we learn from German legislation?

Too complex
The Employee Invention Act encourages inventors, provided it is not too complex. However, this is still the case in Germany. A simplification proposal for it was submitted previously, but that was rejected. Simplification of such legislation is therefore still something to keep in mind. Examples are legislation relating to patent applications, the employer’s duty of information towards the inventor and the calculation of fees. These tasks place a great burden on the capacity of an IP department. It is also telling that only few German attorneys know the system in detail.

Peter van Deursen
IP Director

Seeing that the bar is already placed high in Germany, we advise Dutch companies to follow German regulations when drawing up their own schemes. Especially if the company is active in Germany or works with German employees, as they are subject to German law. German law stipulates that the employer must inform the inventor if an application or patent expires, so that, for example, it can be taken over by the employee-inventor. Regularly informing all the inventors requires quite a lot of work, especially if they have already left the company. Based on the Act, the employer can therefore propose that the employee officially waive the right to information, subject to payment of compensation between 200 and 500 euros. In most cases, German patent specialists can advise on how these cases should be handled.

Bettina Hermann
European Patent Attorney
V.O. Patents & Trademarks (Germany)

Not useful
I don’t think it is useful to study the German legislation. Or the French, Japanese or whatever. Indeed, there is no reason for us at all to adopt experiences or insights from other countries. I know, for instance, that the French legislation has resulted in a great many lawsuits in respect of employer inventions. In Belgium, nothing about this has been laid down in the law and, accordingly, it is up to employer and employees to make their own arrangements. Of course, we have our own arrangements, but it is largely calculated in the wages. And a bonus is given according to the achiements delivered. This also holds for good research that does not result in an invention.

Francois Wéry
Director IP and patent attorney
AGC Glass Europe (Belgium)

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