Employee invention law: Inventor's compensation

It is not unusual for employees to invent things in the course of their work. But it is not always clear at first who owns the rights to such inventions.

In Germany, legal certainty in this regard is provided by employee invention law. The intent and purpose of this law is to strike a reasonable balance between the interests of the employer and those of the employee in regard to an employee’s invention through an evenly balanced allocation of rights and duties.

What is an employee invention?

The principle on which the Employee Invention Act (Gesetz über Arbeitnehmererfindungen) is based is that of the primacy of the inventor (the “inventor principle”), according to which the rights to an invention belong principally to the inventor. The employee is obligated, however, to notify his employer of every invention he makes during his term of employment and to assign the invention to his employer as the case may warrant. The employer then has the option of using or releasing that invention, which is variably referred to as an “employee invention” or “service invention”.

How does this work in practice? Our experts, who by virtue of their expertise are regularly engaged by international corporations as consultants on issues relating to employee invention law, have developed processes by which the complex provisions of law concerning employee inventions can be reduced to a small number of actions and questions.

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