At the German Patent and Trademark Office it is possible to register as trademarks not only signs that can be reproduced in two dimensions but also sound marks, three-dimensional designs including the shape of a product or its packaging (“3D - mark”), and other "getups." 

A condition for the registration of a trademark is that the sign covered by the application is capable of indicating that the product or service labeled with said sign originates from a particular enterprise, in other words the sign must have a "distinctive character." 

Signs which are needed by competitors in order to describe the product or service in question, or to state its composition, are not eligible for protection since there is a "need to keep them free." Thus, for example, the signs "CD-Answer" for computer programs and "vintage" for wines cannot be protected because they are indications that describe the products. Signs which are the subject of registered trademark applications are examined by the German Patent and Trademark Office to ensure compliance with the conditions for registration: "distinctive character" and "need to keep the sign free for the trade."

In addition, the Trademark Act protects commercial designations, for example company symbols such as the company name or firm name or the special designation of a business establishment or enterprise. In contrast to the trademark, protection of company symbols does not begin when they are registered at the Patent and Trademark Office but when they are first used in business circles. However, protection is restricted to the area in which the company symbol is used.

Titles of works are protected as another form of commercial designation. These include the names of printed publications, cinematographic works, audio works, stage works or other comparable works.

A registered trademark is not subject to any time limit. Protection is initially granted for 10 years and may be extended for another 10 years as often as required after payment of a renewal fee.

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