Independent inventors in Germany: Where do they come from and what do they file patent applications for?

Analysis of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office: Many independent developers from Bavaria with innovations in mechanical engineering – DPMA President: Independent inventors are an "essential part of our innovation ecosystem"

Press release of 26 October 2023

Munich/Nuremberg. Corkscrew, expansion plug, airbag: A lot of brilliant inventions do not originate from development departments of large companies but are made by creative and competent developers, known as independent inventors. They work on their own initiative in garages, workshops or at their home computers. Last year, the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) received more than 2,000 patent applications of independent inventors. "Although they often work under difficult conditions, independent inventors never fail to stand up to the development departments of large companies,” DPMA President Eva Schewior said and added: "They are an essential part of our innovation ecosystem, and the DPMA will continue to provide them with the best possible support."

In view of the inventors' trade fair iENA in Nuremberg (October 28th to 30th), the DPMA has conducted an analysis to find out which German Länder patent applications of independent inventors come from and which fields of technology these applications can be attributed to: Last year, almost a quarter of the applications of independent inventors came from Bavaria (448), which, in the German Länder ranking, was followed by North Rhine-Westphalia (386) and Baden-Württemberg (308). If the application numbers are expressed on a per 100,000 population basis, though, Rhineland-Palatinate (4.3 applications) took first place. Bavaria (3.4) and Baden-Württemberg (2.7) were second and third respectively.

Slight increase in the proportion of women

If the application numbers are broken down by technology sectors, "Mechanical engineering" came in first with 812 applications, followed by the sector "Other fields" (462), which combines fields of technology such as civil engineering, furniture, games and other consumer goods. The sector "Chemistry" (250) came in third.

The share of applications by independent inventors in the total amount of applications filed at the DPMA was 5.9%. It is striking that the inventions filed by this group in the "Other fields" sector accounted for 17.7% of all applications, i.e., a share considerably higher than 5.9%. This means that, with regard to this sector, slightly more than every sixth application came from an independent inventor. In the "Chemistry" sector, too, the share of independent inventors was above average (8.9%); with respect to the "Mechanical engineering" sector, it was close to average (5.3%). In the "Instruments" (4.1%) and “Electrical engineering” (2.9%) sectors, the share was considerably lower.

Although the proportion of women among independent inventors has recently seen a constant increase, it is still quite small: Last year, 7.6% of applications came from female inventors (2021: 7.3%).

Overall, there was a considerable decline in the number of inventions filed by this group: In 2022, the DPMA received 2,021 applications of independent inventors, i.e., 21% less than in the previous year.

By far most filings of inventions in Germany come from companies or research institutions. These are indicated as “applicants” in patent applications while the actual developer is indicated as the “inventor”. The DPMA considers applications to concern inventions of independent inventors if they indicate the same natural person both as the "applicant" and the "inventor".

DPMA will provide information at the iENA – initial consultations for inventors

This year, at the iENA, the DPMA will again provide information on patents, utility models, trade marks and designs. At the three-day trade fair, experts will be available to answer IP questions at our exhibition booth (hall 10, booth 01). Furthermore, at our booth, experts of the European Patent Office, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Patent Center Bavaria will be available to provide information. Two patent attorneys will provide initial consultations for inventors. Please visit the DPMA exhibition booth to make an appointment for a consultation.

On dedicated web pages, too, the DPMA provides independent inventors with information on search options, licensing and support programmes (in German).

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Inventiveness and creativity need effective protection. The DPMA is the German centre of expertise for all intellectual property rights – patents, utility models, trade marks and designs. As the largest national patent office in Europe and the fifth largest national patent office in the world, our office stands for the future of Germany as a country of inventors in a globalised economy. Its staff of just under 2,800 at three locations – Munich, Jena and Berlin – provide services to inventors and companies. They implement federal innovation strategies and develop the national, European and international protection systems.

Last updated: 26 October 2023