The chemical industry is an innovation driver and has always played a significant role in economic development. It is therefore not surprising that the first patents in the field of chemistry were registered shortly after the introduction of the German Patent Act in 1877. While these were still geared towards mass production, today the industry is far more differentiated: in addition to highly specialised products, innovative methods, processes and applications are now also protected by patents.
Patents protect the results of years of development work
The development of new vaccines, medicines, or, for example, innovations in the field of sustainability is currently a particular focus of attention in the chemical sector. The development of new chemical compounds, manufacturing methods or possibilities of application is particularly lengthy and cost-intensive in the chemical and pharmaceutical sector.
Patents are therefore essential to protect these inventions (and the associated costs from research and development). In this context, it may make sense to extend patent protection not only to the chemical compounds, but also to special or universal manufacturing methods, as well as to various possibilities of application.
For a long time, German patent law did not provide for patent protection of individual chemical substances: Only indirect substance protection applied, which meant that the manufacturing method could be protected, but not the chemical compound itself.
It was not until 1968 that absolute substance protection was introduced following the template of US patent law. This means that chemical compounds can be patented regardless of their use. Absolute substance protection thus also applies to uses that were not known to the patent holder when the application was filed.
So-called product-by-process claims are a special case in chemical patent law. In certain areas, the physico-chemical characteristics of chemical substances cannot be determined precisely enough because no suitable analytical or measurement methods are available. In the case of product-by-process claims, the conditions of manufacture are therefore listed in the patent as an alternative, so that the product can be defined by the conditions of manufacture. For example, the starting material and the manufacturing method can be included.
We will discuss with you whether such a claim is possible for the applicants.
New manufacturing methods account for a large share of innovation in the chemical industry. Therefore, the time- and cost-intensive development of such methods can also be patented if they constitute a technical invention. The aim is to protect the method, but the products directly produced by the method are also protected (Sec. 9, sentence 2, no. 3, Patent Act). This applies even if the products themselves would not be new and thus not patentable.
In order to prevent competitors from obtaining and using the relevant know-how, patenting the manufacturing method also makes sense if it is not possible to infer the manufacturing method from the product. However, patented methods may be used by third parties for private or research purposes.
Patenting of possibilities of application
Application or use patents are also common in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors. They protect, for example, the use of generic drugs for certain therapeutic purposes. The patent protection then extends to the possible application named in the patent. This is intended to create an incentive for research into further areas of application.
Our services in the field of chemistry
Inventions contribute significantly to the economic success of a chemical or pharmaceutical company. A large part of the budget is spent on research and development, which is why it is all the more important to protect these expenditures through patenting.
We therefore advise our clients individually on strategies and solutions relating to innovative inventions in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors.
In addition to drafting and examining patent strategies, we provide comprehensive support for the patent protection of your invention. Our patent attorneys accompany you throughout the entire process: from the strategy to the patent application to the licensing, defence and enforcement of your claims – on a national and international level.
We advise you in particular in the following areas:
- Inorganic chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Chemical engineering
- Life Science
- Food chemistry (dyes, flavourings)
Our clients benefit from the national and international competence of our experienced patent attorneys in the field of chemistry. Patent attorneys at RGTH have many years of experience and extensive knowledge in the various fields of chemistry and, in some cases, many years of industrial experience.
Thanks to the close networking of our competences, we also handle cross-divisional patent applications and issues efficiently and professionally.