An intellectual property law firm steeped in history with tradition
HOFFMANN EITLE has one of the richest histories of any German intellectual property law firm, dating back to the Imperial era in Germany. We have been advising and representing our clients in matters of intellectual property law since 1892. Since our founding, we have been entrusted with more than 200,000 inventions, both big and small.
Berlin (from 1892)
The founding office was opened in 1892 by the 37-year-old civil engineer, Emil Hoffmann, at Wilhelmstrasse 52 in Berlin. This was a time of rapid technical development in Germany and around the world: 1893 saw the invention of the diesel engine, 1894 the first vaccine against diphtheria, 1895 the first X-ray apparatus, and the end of the 1890s the first wireless telegraph (the first radio device).
It was an ideal time to establish an intellectual property law firm: the Imperial Patent Office had opened in Berlin in 1877 and the first bitter lawsuits were already raging over inventions such as the petrol engine and chemical dyes such as methylene blue and Congo red. Inventions were of enormous social importance. Inventor associations, patent associations and even an association for patent clerks were established. In 1900, the training and admission requirements for patent attorneys were standardised by the first Rules of Conduct for Patent Attorneys. In the same year, Emil Hoffmann was entered into the newly created official list as one of the very first patent attorneys in Germany.
In January 1925, Emil’s son, Erich, who held a doctorate in chemistry, joined the firm. The firm already had clients in the United States and was advising large US companies such as the Coca Cola Company, United Chromium Inc. and Intercontinental Service Corp. Primarily, the firm mainly handled the inventions of small and medium-sized companies.
1944 drove the Hoffmann law firm to the brink of ruin. Berlin was bombed almost incessantly. The founder of the firm, Emil Hoffmann, died in an accident at the age of 89. And the office with most of the files and documents from the first fifty years of the firm’s existence were destroyed when the office in Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse was completely destroyed by incendiary bombs.
Munich (from 1945)
Erich Hoffmann and his family fled the destroyed Berlin for Thuringia to escape the approaching Red Army. His excellent English and lack of national socialist background meant Erich was able to find a job working for the American commander. A friendship evolved and it was this that paved the way for him to leave for Bavaria shortly before the invasion of the Soviet Army. And so, the family arrived in a heavily bombed Munich. Erich Hoffmann re-established the firm in his private apartment at Widenmeyerstrasse 34. His office furnishings consisted of just a seldom used coal stove, a table, a chair and a discarded Underwood typewriter. However, in time, Erich was able to reconnect with clients and rebuild the firm.
At the end of the Second World War, the Patent Office of the German Reich in Berlin closed its doors. Since it was located in East Berlin and all the documents were also stored in the Eastern zone that was under Soviet control, it was necessary to start from scratch in the Western occupation zones.
From 1946, Erich Hoffmann headed the post-war patent bar association in Munich and worked hard to help establish the German Patent Office, which reopened in Munich in 1949 very close to Hoffmann’s home. It was initially housed in the Deutsches Museum due to its well-stocked technical library while work began on construction of a new patent office building on the opposite bank of the Isar river.
In 1960, Werner Eitle, a qualified engineer, became a partner in the firm. Five years later, Klaus Hoffmann, the grandson of the founder, also became a partner.
Over the years, it became ever clearer how ideal Munich was and still is as a location for the intellectual property law firm: Munich became the permanent seat of the German Patent Office, followed later by the Federal Patent Court in 1961 and the European Patent Office in 1977. Year by year the firm grew steadily and in 1969 moved to the BayWa building in the newly built Arabella Park district of Munich. In the early ‘70s, Klaus Hoffmann, together with the next generation of partners including Bernd Hansen, Klaus Füchsle and Werner Lehn, worked hard to expand the firm’s business, in particular in Japan. In Japan at that time, patent law in faraway Europe was synonymous with HOFFMANN EITLE. The valuable business relations that were established with Japanese companies and law firms are still an important pillar of our success today. In 1976, Alexander Nette joined the firm as its first attorney-at-law and headed up the trademark department. In the early ‘90s, attorney-at-law Guntram Rahn founded HOFFMANN EITLE’s patent litigation department.
Europe (from 1987)
In 1987, HOFFMANN EITLE decided to go one step further and establish itself in Europe. It opened its first branch office in London, which has become one of the leading British IP law firms today. Following this success, further offices were opened in other European cities: Milan (2009), Hamburg and Dusseldorf (2012), Madrid (2013), Amsterdam (2018) and Barcelona (2021). Patent attorneys from many other European countries, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Ireland and Austria, as well as from non-European countries such as the USA, Japan and China also work for HOFMMAN EITLE at its various locations. More than 20 languages are now spoken at HOFFMANN EITLE and the primary working languages are English and German.
In 2014, the main office of the firm relocated to the ultra-modern Arabeska building in the Bogenhausen district of Munich.
Today, more than 130 patent attorneys and attorneys-at-law with European and/or national qualifications, more than 40 trainee patent attorneys with technical or scientific degrees and more than 300 other qualified employees work diligently for our clients.
HOFFMANN EITLE’s history is one of a steady organic growth, from a small family firm to one of the largest and most internationally respected intellectual property law firms in Europe. This rise was made possible above all by an unwavering philosophy of quality and a commitment to diversity and internationality, which has earned HOFFMANN EITLE the trust of many clients from all over the world.