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The different types of intellectual property rights in Germany

Registered and unregistered intellectual property rights

Registered intellectual property rights


These protect words, letters, numbers, illustrations, colours, acoustic signals and three-dimensional shapes that distinguish a company’s goods or services from others (DPMA: Trademarks).

Registered designs

These protect the exterior design of a product. The shape and/or colour schemes of two- and three-dimensional objects can be protected (DPMA: Designs).

Utility models

These protect new technical inventions that can be used in industry and that are open for all areas of technology.

Please note: It is not possible to protect processes, e.g. manufacturing processes.

Utility models can only be protected through national registrations (DPMA: Utility Models). Please note that utility model protection does not exist in all countries.

Further information on this can be found on the European information platform


These protect new technical inventions and processes that can be used in industry. Owners have the privilege of having the sole right to use the invention and to prohibit any commercial usage of the patent that they have not authorised (DPMA: Patents).

Unregistered intellectual property rights

Unregistered community design

New products are still protected for a specific period of time even if they have not been officially registered. In Germany, this is based on the regulation for “unregistered community design” (nicht eingetragenes Gemeinschaftsschutzrecht). However, this can only be enforced within a narrow legal framework.

Please note the legal specificities on unregistered community design on page 12 of the DPMA information brochure "Designs":

Download DPMA PDF


This protects personal intellectual creations (e.g. music, arts, literature). These rights do not have to be registered, and take effect at the time of creation.

Authorities responsible for registering your intellectual property rights

German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA)

Registration authority for brands, registered designs, utility models and patents within Germany

European Patent Office (EPA)

Patent registration authority responsible for EPO members (EU-wide)

European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)

Brand and registered design registration authority responsible for EPO members (EU-wide)

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

International registration authority for brands, registered designs and patents

Details about the registration procedure in the relevant European countries and comprehensive information on intellectual property protection within the EU can be called up via the European information platform