FAQ on patents

The handling of intellectual property at KIT is defined in the IP policy published on July 19, 2010. If you have any questions regarding intellectual property that are not answered in this FAQ, please contact the Intellectual Property Department of Innovation and Relation Management (IRM).

Comprehensive information on technology transfer at KIT, the KIT Directive on the Handling of Intellectual Property and information for inventors as well as on inventor remuneration can be found in the Guidelines on Technology Transfer at KIT.

1. I made an invention, what do I have to do? 

If you are an employee of KIT, you must inform your employer. Contact IRM's patent professionals who will familiarize themselves with your invention and advise you. You can also complete the invention disclosure form without advice and send it to IRM by in-house mail. However, we recommend that you consult IRM before filling out the form. 


2. What is an invention and what is not? 

An invention is, for example, a new device, a new substance, a new process or a new use that contains new technical features (components, arrangements or process steps). These new technical characteristics must always have a technical effect. Pure ideas, rules of the game, business models or algorithms are not inventions. 


3. Who can I speak to? Who is responsible at KIT? 

IRM is responsible for patenting your inventions. IRM's Intellectual Property department currently has five patent professionals who will advise you and draft patent applications.


4. What is an invention disclosure?

If you are an employee of KIT, you must inform your employer about your invention. Your contact point is IRM. Incoming invention disclosures are assessed with regard to patentability and economic usability. It is of great interest whether an industrial intellectual property right can be exploited, i.e. whether licenses can be found or whether a spin-off is planned. The invention disclosure form helps you by asking specific questions to provide all the information necessary for the assessment. The invention should be presented in such a way that a patent application can be created from it. If you have problems filling in the invention disclosure form, please contact the patent professionals. 


5. What happens after invention disclosure? 

First, the invention disclosure is checked for completeness. The invention should be presented in such a way that a patent application can be created from it. If all details are included, a decision will be made within 4 months (this is a legal deadline) whether KIT will file a patent application for the invention (claim) or whether you and, if applicable, your co-inventors can freely dispose of your invention (release). 


6. How does the patent process work? 

IRM currently has five patent professionals. Most patent applications are made by the patent professionals themselves. In some cases, however, external patent attorneys are employed, e.g. for joint applications with other companies or if a special field of expertise is involved. After the decision on the claim has been made, the patent professional, in close cooperation with the inventor, will prepare an application and file it with the patent office. As a rule, the first feedback is received within one year. The application text is published 18 months after filing, regardless of whether a patent has already been granted and how good or bad the chances are. It usually takes 2-3 years for a (German) patent to be granted. 


7. Do I get any compensation? 

You can read the terms and conditions for the remuneration, as well as its amount, in the PAL guideline. 


8. What do claim and release mean? 

A claim means that KIT will patent the invention. The inventors then receive a remuneration according to the PAL guideline. Release, one the other hand, means that the inventor can either register the invention himself and at his own expense, or he can publish the results of his work. 


9. How can I find our if my invention is really new? 

As an inventor, you are probably familiar with the relevant literature in the field in which the invention was created (including your own publications). However, a short research in freely accessible databases, e.g. Depatisnet from the German Patent and Trademark Office, is also worthwile. Using simple keywords, you can search for both German and international (e.g. European, Japanese or US) patents. 


10. Who is the inventor? 

Inventors are all persons who have made an (inventive) contribution to an invention. It is important that favors must be avoided at all costs. Only those who actually took part in the invention or co-invented are counted as inventors. In some countries, e.g. the USA, a patent is invalid and is revoked if it turns out that the named inventor was not actually involved in the invention. 


11. My invention was created in a third-party funded project. 

If your invention was created in the context of a third party funded project, you must inform the IRM. We will check the existing contracts and make sure that everything stipulated in the contract on intellectual property rights is adhered to. 


12. Can a student be an inventor?

Basically yes. However since students do not usually have an employment contract with KIT, they are often not "employed inventors". If a student without an employment contract (e.g. without a HIWI contract or similar) is a co-inventor at KIT, for example, he can transfer his share to KIT and will then be remunerated according to the PAL guideline. If in doubt, ask the patent professionals at IRM. 


13. Can a visiting scientist be an inventor? 

Basically yes. In the case of visiting scientists, the contractual relationship with KIT must be checked on a case-by-case basis. IRM will do this for you. 


14. I invented something together with my external colleagues. 

An invention with external colleagues should be treated in the same way as an invention in which only KIT employees are involved. You must report your invention to IRM. It is best to state what percentage of the invention is attributable to each inventor and where the inventors come from. IRM will then arrange everything that needs to be done before filling a patent application. 


15. I want to publish something as soon as possible. When can I do that? 

If you have made an invention and want to publish something about it, you must report your invention to IRM in good time. If the publication is finished and the invention disclosure is submitted at the same time - this is usually too late! Remember that your invention will be carefully examined for patentability and exploitability. IRM employees from the Intellectual Property, Licensing and Business Development departments are involved in this process. Once the patent application has been filed with the patent office, you can publish. 


16. I've already spoken to my colleagues at the institute. Is this already public? 

No, the circle of colleagues at your institute is not public. Neither is an internal institute seminar. 


17. My invention is described in detail in my diploma thesis and has been available in the library for several weeks. 

If your invention is described in you diploma thesis and is available in the library, it is publicly accessible and therefore not longer patentable. All information that the public can access (regardless of whether they actually do or not) belongs to the state of the art and is therefore due to a lack of novelty no longer patentable.


18. A company is already interested in my invention. 

Please inform IRM immediately of this fact. In addition to our patent specialists, we also have specialists who conduct license or other contract negotiations with companies. In addition, you must finalize a non-disclosure agreement before passing on information. Templates for this can be obtained from SU Law.


19. What is a patent? 

Almost everyone knows what a patent is, but often people misinterpret what you are allowed to do when you own a patent. A patent is not the permission to do something - rather you can forbid others from doing something. The prerequisite is, of course, that you can even determine whether a third party infringes a patent. You should bear this in mind if you want to apply for patents abroad. They are expensive and only worthwhile if you can also monitor the market there or if you have a licensee who monitors the market in that country. 


20. What types of intellectual property rights are there? 
Everyone knows patents. They are also the most important intellectual property rights group at KIT: A utility model is an intellectual property right for products that is only entered in a register and its disclosure is usually not worthwhile. You can also protect trademarks, topographies (e.g. for semiconductors), plant varieties or industrial designs. Of course, there is also copyright, which does not have to be applied for separately. 


21. Can software be patented? 

There are different rules internationally. In Europe, software programs are usually protected by copyright. Under certain circumstances, patent protection may also be possible if there is a technical effect. If you have a specific question, it is best to ask one of patent professionals for advice. 


22. Are there any international patents? 

Patents have to be applied and paid for seperately for each country. However, a European patent application or an international (PCT) application may be filed. With a European application, you currently file a single application for a patent in 34 countries. Only when the patent is granted does one have to consider in which of the 34 countries one really needs it. The situation is similar with a PCT application. Here you have an option on 142 countries. Of course, both ways are much more expensive than a German application and you have to consider whether such an investment will pay off at some point. In some countries the question also arises as to how effective the prevailing legal protection there is in practice. 


23. Does a patent last forever? 

No, a patent lasts for up to 20 years from the date of filing, provided you pay the maintenance fees. It can take 2-3 years before a patent is granted, but the filing date is decisive. 


24. What are the costs? 

A large number of fees have to be paid for patents. Application and examination fees are moderate at the beginning, but a patent becomes more and more expensive over time. The current annual fees for maintaining a patent increase with the duration. IRM therefore checks at regular intervals whether it is worth maintaining a patent at all. A patent only benefits KIT if it is valorized.