This year HOFFMANN EITLE is celebrating its 125th anniversary and we want to take this opportunity to review for you our eventful history that has featured many minor and major inventions and ground-breaking patents.
The Founding Years and the Subsequent Period in Berlin (1892-1945)
The original firm was founded in 1892 in Berlin by the 37-year-old engineer Emil Hoffmann. 1892 was an ideal time to establish a patent law firm: The Imperial Patent Office had opened in Berlin in 1877, following which inventor associations, patent associations and even an association for patent clerks were established.
Times were thought to be "modern" and inventions were in style. There was an enormous boom in new technology and innovations in many fields, such as e.g.
- a cure for diphtheria
- wireless telegraph service.
In 1900 Emil Hoffmann was entered in the list of patent attorneys as the 29th patent attorney, and was thus one of the first patent attorneys in Germany.
When Emil Hoffmann first established his office he was faced with grave financial problems and was, at times, even forced to sell stamps from his extensive and valuable collection in order to be able to maintain the firm. However by 1902, Emil Hoffmann had prospered and moved to new office premises in the Lindenstrasse in Berlin, very close to the new patent court, where he would work for the next 42 years.
By January 1925 when Emil’s son, Erich, a chemist with a doctoral degree, joined the firm, strong contacts in the United States had been established and the firm was advising large US companies such as the Coca Cola Company, United Chromium Inc. or Intercontinental Service Corp. Of course, the firm also handled many inventions of small and midsize companies as well as those of private persons, mostly in Germany.
The Hoffmann law firm nearly did not survive 1944. The building in which the firm had its offices was completely destroyed along with most of the documents and records from the first 50 years when the building was hit by an incendiary bomb. And Emil Hoffmann, the founder of the firm, died in that final year of the war as a result of a tragic accident at the age of 89.
Reestablishment of the Firm in Munich (1945 to the End of the ’60s)
Erich Hoffmann was able to escape Berlin together with his family in 1945, finally arriving in the thoroughly destroyed Munich. Erich re-established the firm in the family apartment in the Widenmeyerstrasse in a building that had also been partly destroyed by the bombing in 1944. His office furnishings consisted of just a table, a chair, a seldom used coal oven and someone’s discarded Underwood typewriter. However in time, Erich Hoffmann was able to reconnect with clients and rebuild the firm.
Directly after the Second World War ended, the German Patent Office in Berlin closed its doors. It was Erich Hoffmann who, in 1946, headed the first post-war patent bar association in Munich and he also worked hard to establish the new German Patent Office in Munich that opened in 1949. The first office space into which the German Patent Office moved was in the library of the Deutsches Museum.
Werner Eitle, an engineer, became the first partner of the firm in 1960 and it is his name that makes up the second half of the firm’s name today. Five years later, the grandson of the founder, Klaus Hoffmann, also became a partner.
It became ever more clear over the years how ideal Munich was and still is as a location for the 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. With the recovery of Germany and its economy, the office expanded and moved out of the family apartment into a villa and then again in 1969 to larger office space in the BayWa building in the Arabella Park District of Munich.
A Success Story (1970 to 2017)
Following introduction of the European Patent Convention, HOFFMANN EITLE was an important contact for the European Patent Office and the firm contributed successfully to the still young system. Klaus Hoffmann was also instrumental in establishing the statutory basis for representation at the European Patent Office and held the post of Secretary General of the Union of European Practitioners in Industrial Property Law from 1973 to 1981.
In the early '70s, Klaus Hoffmann together with Bernd Hansen, who joined the firm in 1972 and became one of the leading patent attorneys in the chemical field, worked hard to extend HOFFMANN EITLE’s business to Japan. When patent law was discussed in Japan at that time, it was HOFFMANN EITLE that was meant. The successful business relations that were established with Japanese companies were and still are an important basis for the success of the firm.
I Bernd Hansen also began in the '70s to build up what is now today the largest chemical department of a European patent law firm.
In 1987, HOFFMANN EITLE opened an office in London to better accommodate the international focus of the law firm. Following this, additional offices were opened in Milan (2009), in Hamburg and Dusseldorf (2012) and in Madrid (2013).
The main office of the law firm relocated in 2014 to the ultra-modern Arabeska building not far from our old offices in the BayWa building, where today more than 100 patent attorneys (European and national), engineers and scientists, 18 attorneys at law and about 300 qualified employees are now working.
We wish to extend our gratitude to all of our clients for their faithful and in part long-standing cooperation with HOFFMANN EITLE, and we are looking forward to many more years of successfully working with our clients.