Innovation at the German Patent and Trademark Office: spotlight on cutting-edge tools and services

In exclusive insights, the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) reveals the innovative non-core tools and services that it offers trademark users, including developments of its digital tools and collaboration with other national IP offices.

Over the past few years, WTR has ranked the leading 50 IP offices across the world by the non-core tools and services that they offer. Those range from the implementation of online platforms, website accessibility and the use of AI to the offering of services such as dispute mediation and legal advice workshops.

Today, DPMA representative Til Huber shares insights with WTR on the innovative services that the agency offers that assist trademark professionals in the protection and enforcement of their brands in Germany.

Innovation insights from DPMA:

IT and digital tools

Has the office made any significant changes to its website to improve functionality and user experience in the past 12 months?

The homepage of the DPMA is continuously updated both in terms of content and functionality. Information on innovations in office practice, as well as legal reforms, international cooperation projects and other topics relating to industrial property rights, can be found in the “News” section and in the subpages of the respective IP rights. All e-filing services are explained in detail and the related FAQs (especially the information for SMEs) are updated regularly.

Does the registry offer online filing of trademarks?

Users can file trademark applications electronically via DPMAdirektWeb and DPMAdirektPro. The DPMAdirektPro service is an electronic filing option with a signature card and a special software. Meanwhile, DPMAdirektWeb offers a web browser-based filing service without a signature card for trademarks and the ability to file international applications for registration of a mark.

The e-filing services are continuously revised and improved. Particularly in response to customer feedback, new functionalities are implemented, technical assistance and plausibility checks are incorporated to prevent avoidable errors, and help texts and notes are included. One example of a major improvement is the changes recently implemented regarding compiling the list of goods and services. The goods and services terms of the Harmonised Database (eKDB), which are offered for selection in the DPMAdirekt, are now displayed by topic: the connections between the superordinate group titles (generic terms) and the individual terms assigned to them – the so-called taxonomy structure – are established and made visible. Users can thus search specifically and thematically for certain groups of goods and services and conveniently compile a comprehensively formulated list of goods and services using just a few generic terms instead of many individual goods and services in order to determine the scope of protection of their trademark.

Does the registry offer a searchable database of trademark applications/registrations on its own web platform?

On a statutory basis, the DPMA’s online register, DPMAregister, as a searchable database for trademarks (as well as patents, utility models and designs), can be accessed free of charge. DPMAregister provides the latest information on the legal and procedural status of all IP applications and registered and granted IP rights, which provide protection in Germany now or at any earlier stage. There are several search modes available, from a beginner’s search to an expert search. The service is also suitable for the regular and systematic checking of newly published IP rights as part of a monitoring search.

Beyond trademark filings and search, are there other services that can be managed and completed on the registry’s web platform?

Besides trademark filings, the DPMA offers the option to file applications for patents, utility models, designs and international applications for registration of a mark electronically. The users can file all applications via the DPMAdirektPro and DPMAdirektWeb platforms. Besides that, DPMAdirektWeb provides the ability to file applications for the determination or declaration of invalidity with respect to a registered design.

Does the office have an API to allow third-party software providers to access trademark application/registration data?

DPMAconnect’s web service provides legal status data and publication data for all IP rights, and its API allows for on-demand downloads depending on search criteria, as well as for bulk downloads. Furthermore, DPMAdirektPro’s online application server offers an API to third-party IP management software.

Has the office introduced any online services that use AI?

The DPMA is working on the integration of an image search functionality for trademarks in DPMAregister. Furthermore, AI is currently used in the patent section for pre-classification, translation and search optimisation.

Value-add propositions

Does the office host IP legal advice information/workshops for SMEs?

The DPMA’s Customer Care and Services is not authorised to give legal advice. In Germany, legal services are reserved for legal advisory professionals. Legal advice is therefore exclusively provided by patent attorneys and lawyers. Nonetheless, the DPMA is offering free initial consultation for inventors in cooperation with the Chamber of Patent Attorneys. These consultations take place at the DPMA in Munich and Berlin by appointment. Additional free initial consultations for inventors take place in the venues of our regional partners and various chambers of industry and commerce.

Does the office partner with enforcement agencies or directly help companies/law firms enforce against counterfeit goods?

Together with the Central Unit of Industrial Property Protection (Zentralstelle Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz) of the German customs services, the DPMA attends important fairs in order to provide information on product piracy and trademark counterfeiting, and helps to elucidate the procedures and terms for filing an application for action by the customs authorities pursuant to EU Regulation 608/2013. In addition, the DPMA cooperates with major trade fair organisations (Messe Frankfurt) in initiatives against product piracy (Messe Frankfurt against Copying) and has developed relevant information material for trade fair exhibitors.

Public outreach

Does the office host any trademark education/awareness events aimed at the general public?

The DPMA regularly hosts seminars to raise awareness for intellectual property, as well as workshops on how to use in-house and external IP databases (eg, for trademark searches). Beyond that, DPMA speakers participate in manifold events hosted by national, regional and international organisers to highlight the benefits of intellectual property and are actively involved in a series of high-level working groups of the EPO and the EUIPO to foster relevant SME support services.

Does the IP office use social media to spread awareness of IP?

So far, the DPMA is represented on Xing (a business network in Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and the related employer rating platform Kununu. In the near future, we plan to be present on LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.

The DPMA has a lot of content to offer, such as current information (eg, website preview with current topics, interesting anniversaries and updates of individual DPMA internet pages), information on events (eg, DPMAnutzerforum, search workshops and trade fairs at which the DPMA is participating), job vacancies, references to DPMA publications (eg, newsletters, press releases, annual report and inventor activities), references to publications about the DPMA (eg, in the press), statistics, quotations from office management, information on our cooperation partners (eg, patent information centres and their events, and cooperation with other patent offices), tips and tricks for searching our databases, innovation awards (eg, application deadlines, proposals and award winners), the results of studies on IP rights, service messages (eg, maintenance messages and faults and their rectification), information on funding programmes and sharing information from other national IP offices.

For each social network, the focus will depend on the platform. On LinkedIn and Xing, we will have a specific focus on job vacancies, the family friendliness of the DPMA as an employer, qualification opportunities at the DPMA, corporate culture, information for applicants, and information for trainees and legal trainees, as well as interviews with staff members. On YouTube, we plan to post explanatory videos (eg, tutorials) on IP rights, on the use of various tools (eg, DPMAdirektWeb and TMclass) and on IP applications. Finally, on Twitter, we plan to post all of the above-mentioned content, including images and links to our website and YouTube channel.

Does the office attend any non-IP-specific events in an effort to spread awareness of intellectual property to non-legal audiences?

The DPMA has stands at several trade fairs and congresses in many economic sectors. There we inform the public about industrial property rights. However, due to the covid-19 pandemic, the DPMA currently only participates in trade fairs digitally. For this purpose, we have developed a virtual trade fair stand. We hope that we will soon be able to participate physically in trade fairs again.

In addition, experts of our office (as well as our office management) give lectures at events with audiences from many sectors. This engagement is also currently limited to virtual events due to the pandemic.

Does the registry collaborate with other national IP offices on the development of innovative tools/services?

The DPMA cooperates in particular with the EUIPO, WIPO and the EPO in the development and improvement of innovative electronic tools and services for users. There is also an exchange and cooperation with other national IP offices, but more on a working level.

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