16. What does the Employee Inventions Act stipulate?
The German Employee Inventions Act (ArbnErfG) governs the rights and obligations of the employee and employer in the event that the employee makes an invention. It includes special regulations for inventors at universities. A “job-related invention” is produced by an employee within the scope of an activity assigned to them at the university or based on their expertise or activities as pertaining to their employment (Section 4.2 of ArbnErfG). Job-related inventions must be reported, are considered the property of the university as an employer, and may be subject to a patent application by the university, with the obligation to remunerate the inventor. This includes inventions from secondary employment activities and externally-funded research. All other inventions made by the employee in a completely different area are considered non-job-related inventions; however, employees are still obligated to notify their employer (Sections 18 and 19 of ArbnErfG). Students who do not have an employment relationship with the university are considered independent inventors and may freely dispose of their invention. Since February 7, 2002, the university has been permitted to lay claim to the inventions of all employees following the amendment to Section 42 of the German Employee Inventions Act. Since February 7, 2002, inventors have been entitled to reasonable remuneration (Section 42.4 of ArbnErfG) at a rate of 30 percent of the gross revenue generated through commercialization. If there are several inventors, then the inventor remuneration is split among them proportionately. This remuneration of 30 percent means that inventors from the higher education sector are significantly better positioned than employees from industry.