Under German law, the right to the patent shall belong, in principle, to the inventor. However, a service invention made by an employee may be claimed by the employer.

In accordance with the German Law on Employees' Inventions, the employee is obligated to report his invention to the employer. The report can be done by e-mail or fax. In the report the declaring person must be named. However, a signature is not required.

By claiming the invention the right to the service invention passes to the employer. The invention is considered to be claimed, if the employer does not release the service invention to the employee upon the expiry of 4 months after receipt of the report in due form. This means that the reported invention is considered to be claimed, if it is not declared to be released.

By the claim, the employer has a fundamental obligation to file a domestic patent or utility model application for the service invention. If the service invention is commercially used, the employer is required to make an appropriate payment to the employed inventor.

If the employer decides not to maintain a patent or utility model whose subject matter is a service invention, he must offer it to the employed inventor for further exploitation.

Conflicts in the field of employee inventions law usually arise because the employed inventor considers the payment offered to be too low or because of the non-compliance of the previously existing strict formal requirements for claiming a service invention. Such conflicts can be referred to the Arbitration Board set up at the German Patent and Trademark Office.

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