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Employees Inventions




Almost all inventions held by companies are made by their employees. Under US and UK law there is generally no problem in transferring the rights to the invention from the employee to the employing company—this is often a standard part of the contract of employment.

In other countries, the situation can be more complicated. The German Patent Law states that the rights to an invention are held in the first place by the inventor. If the inventor is an employee, however, the employer can claim the right to the invention. The Law on Employees' Invention (Arbeitnehmererfindergesetz) provides for a special claim called in German “Inanspruchnahme” to the invention which must be made by the employer within four months of receipt of the invention disclosure. After claiming the invention, the employer is obliged to file a patent application without undue delay and also consult the inventor about foreign applications.

Furthermore, the employer is obliged to pay special compensation to the inventor for use of the invention. The compensation is in addition to the inventor’s normal salary. 

Inventions made by university professors ("Hochschullehrer") belong, however, to the professors themselves and cannot currently be claimed by the employing university. Should the professor chose to do so, he or she may assign the invention to the university. There is, however, a proposal for a new law at present in front of the German Parliament under which such inventions can in future be claimed by the university. Inventions made by other university employees can be claimed by the university.

For further information see the Frequently Asked Questions

Useful Links concerning the Law on Employees' Inventions:

WIPO Translation of the Law on Employees' Inventions in English or French
German Association for Industrial Property (GRUR) letter on reform of law to German Justice Ministry in German
German Patent & Trade Mark Office Information about Employees' Invention in German
European Union's Green Paper on Patents which included a section on Employees' Inventions
Follow-Up to Green Paper in which European Commission proposes a study on Employees' Inventions.


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