Press release | 19.2.2020
Munich, 17 September 2015 - The Munich Oktoberfest is not just for beer lovers; it has much to offer technology fans too. A search in the patent database of the European Patent Office (EPO) shows that the festival's beer tents house a wide range of inventions. Beer taps take the top spot with 1 813 European patents, but there are also 422 patents on drinks‑dispensing equipment, 74 on rinsing installations and no fewer than 64 on the typical beer‑garden‑style tables and benches. It all goes to show that the Oktoberfest as we know it would be impossible without patents. And as visitor numbers continue to rise, the tent operators and the breweries have every reason to keep investing in new technology to improve their tents and facilities. The resulting technical solutions frequently find their way into patent applications filed with the EPO.
"Behind every litre of beer there are between 15 and 25 patents relating to beer production alone," says Ralph Schneid, product manager at Krones AG, which develops and manufactures machinery and equipment for processing, filling and packaging. "But if you include the process for getting beer to the tent and into the glass, then the number of patents is much higher." Some days up to 400 000 litres of beer are served, so a lot of inventive technology is needed to ensure the flow of beer does not run dry. Only the beer itself is not patented. "A beer's recipe is the most closely guarded secret in the brewery, and the master brewer is its keeper. If we patented the recipe we would have to disclose it and then anyone could brew our beer," explains Johannes Tippmann, head of Weihenstephan Brewing Research Centre. It is just as well recipes cannot be patented anyway, because beer would surely then lose the special appeal it derives from its wide diversity of flavours.
From highly complex technology to simple but good ideas - the Oktoberfest is also home to patented inventions which are not so immediately eye‑catching, such as the beer table net, which can be attached to the underside of a table with elastic straps and used to store jackets and handbags. "I patented this invention firstly to protect my own work but also, of course, so that I could exploit it commercially later on," explains its inventor Benno Zierer.
Examples like this show once again that, in many ways, Munich's Oktoberfest is also a playground for creative minds. Watch our film to find out how many patents are behind each and every beer tent and what contribution Albert Einstein once made to the Oktoberfest.
With some 7 000 employees, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest European public service institutions. Its headquarters are in Munich and it also has offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna. The EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through its centralised patent granting procedure, inventors can obtain patent protection in up to 38 member states of the European Patent Organisation. The EPO is also the world's leading public authority for patent searches and information.
Director Media Relations
European Patent Office
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