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The first rule of invention:

Register first, publish second !!!

Legal framework for inventions made at universities

Obligation to register job-related inventions, § 5 Arbeitnehmererfindergesetz (employee invention law)

Any invention a member of university staff makes in his or her official capacity must be reported to the employer. You must register your invention in writing immediately after its creation (please download a copy of the form for registering an invention).

Who needs to register their invention?

Anyone who is employed by a university is considered to be an employee of the university. These include university lecturers, research staff and all other employees.

Students who are not employed by the university are considered independent inventors.

What is considered an employee invention?

An employee invention is any invention directly related to your official duties as an employee or based substantially on job-related experiences or activities. Inventions made in relation to a secondary employment or a third-party funded project also count as employee inventions.

Inventions made while in secondary employment

You must also register any inventions made while in secondary employment, if these are based on the experience you have gained in your “primary job” (inventions based on experience = employee inventions).

Special regulations for publications, § 42, para. 1 Arbeitnehmererfindergesetz (employee invention law)

You must give advance notification to the university of any publication that may contain a patentable invention (usually 2 months prior to the publication date). In the case of research results that could prove business-relevant, this will enable the university to file a provisional application for a patent. Once this period is over, you may publish your findings. The university is not permitted under the law to prohibit the publication of your research or to influence its contents.

Negative freedom to publish as exception, § 42, para. 2 Arbeitnehmererfindergesetz (employee invention law)

Every university researcher has the right to keep his or her research secret for an indefinite period of time and to decline to publish his or her findings (negative freedom to publish). The inventor is responsible for his or her decision. The employer cannot force the inventor to reveal his or her reasons for declining to publish results. The inventor is not required to give notification or otherwise provide a statement. If the inventor decides to reveal his or her research findings at a later time, he or she must register the invention by following the rules described above and notify the university of his/her intent to publish. This is to prevent the inventor from invoking freedom to publish so as to thwart any attempt by the university to file a patent while seeking to use the research him/herself.

Claims by a university to a employee invention, § 6 Arbeitnehmererfindergesetz (employee invention law)

An employee invention may be claimed by the university. In this case, the university must secure the rights to the invention in its own name and cover the costs of further using it. If the university is not interested in using the invention, it must notify the inventor, declaring its intention to waive its claim, no later than 4 months after full registration of the invention has been received.

Remuneration of inventors, § 42, para. 4 Arbeitnehmererfindergesetz (employee invention law)

The inventor is entitled to remuneration in the amount of 30% of the proceeds, e.g. from licensing fees or the sale of patents. As far as remuneration is concerned, the university inventor is much better off than other inventors of employee inventions employed elsewhere. Any financial means provided by the employer in order to patent and market the invention are not deducted from the proceeds. If several inventors are involved, the proceeds are shared among them.

Non-exclusive right to use research results for teaching and research purposes, § 43, para. 3 Arbeitnehmererfindergesetz (employee invention law)

Even if the university inventor has surrendered the rights to his or her invention to the university, he or she retains a non-exclusive right to use his or her research results for teaching and research purposes. This is also the case, even if the university has obtained and/or sold a relevant patent or licence.

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