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Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office

German Bundestag approves Law Reform allowing epi Members to partner with nationally qualified patent attorneys and attorneys-at-law in Germany

June 16, 2021

Last week, on 10th June 2021, the lower house of the German Parliament (Bundestag) approved a law which will allow European Patent Attorneys working in private practice to professionally and economically associate with nationally qualified patent attorneys and attorneys-at-law in Germany to exercise their free profession.

epi has been lobbying since considerable time for this change of the German law, which currently arguably hinders European Patent Attorneys (without a parallel German national qualification) from professionally liaising with nationally qualified patent attorneys and attorneys-at-law in Germany. While not being of concern for epi members working in industry or other capacity, the current German law may form a major obstacle for epi members working in private practice who wish to liaise with nationally qualified patent attorneys and attorneys-at-law in Germany.

In epi’s view, long-term formal professional cooperation between European Patent Attorneys working in private practice on the one hand and German patent attorneys and/or attorneys-at-law, on the other hand, is both in the interest of said professional groups and in the interest of their clients. Such cooperation, which could for instance be organised under the legal form of a partnership, enables a one-stop solution with combined specialised knowledge and skills, which are often required in complex patent cases.

The current § 52a(1) PAO (“Patentanwaltsordnung“) and § 59a(1) BRAO (“Bundesrechtsanwaltsordnung”) restrict professional cooperation to members of certain free professions, i.e. nationally qualified German patent attorneys and attorneys-at-law, tax advisors, fiscal agents, auditors and certified accountants. The new law (in § 59c(1)(4) BRAO and §52c(1)(4) PAO) opens this closed catalogue of professions and extends the possibilities of professional cooperation to all members of the “free profession” as defined in the German partnership company law (§ 1(2) PartGG, “Partnerschaftsgesellschaftsgesetz”).

As epi suggested, the German Parliament has now explicitly confirmed that European Patent Attorneys can be regarded as members of the free profession under § 1(2) PartGG (see the reasoning in the legislative materials: BTag. Drs. 19/27670).
After this important step of having been approved by the Bundestag, the new law still needs the formal agreement by the Bundesrat (the upper house of German Parliament representing all regions), which is expected to occur within the next months before the general elections in Germany planned for September 2021. The new law could therefore come into force as early as summer/autumn 2022 (on the first day of the thirteenth month after its publication in the official Gazette).

The three position papers submitted by epi to achieve this change of the law can be found on our website:

Position Paper of 13 December 2019
Position Paper of 9 December 2020
Position Paper of 6 April 2021

epi’s activities on this issue have previously been reported here and by JUVE Patent.

The draft law and reasoning (BTag. Drs. 19/27670) can be found here.

The adopted recommendations of the Legal Committee (BTag. Drs. 19/30516) can be found here.

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