How does an employer claim the rights to an invention made by an employee in Germany? In most countries, employment agreements (at least for engineers and scientists) have a provision that says that all inventions made during employment belong to the employer. The inventor’s right to be named as an inventor is preserved, but the right to the invention and its use belongs to the employer.
Such “pre-assignments” of inventions are not permitted under German law. Instead, an employer is obliged to claim the rights to the invention under the German Act on Employee Inventions (“Gesetz über Arbeitnehmererfindungen”). This can be done either by setting out a formal claim to the invention in a separate document or, since a change of the law in 2009, the rights will be deemed to have been claimed if the employer does not state within four months of receipt of an invention memorandum that the employer does not want to claim the rights.
Even if the rights to an invention have been deemed to have been claimed, we recommend anyway that an employer set out the claim to the invention in a formal document (the “Inanspruchnahmeerklärung”). This demonstrates clearly that the rights to the invention have been claimed. The document does not have to be filed with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office or the European Patent Office. Other countries require, however, the filing of a copy of the assignment document and many will accept the declaration claiming the rights to the invention in the absence of another assignment agreement.
If you need a template to claim the rights to an invention, or have any other queries about the German Law on Employee Inventions, then feel free to get in touch.