Offices that purely serve to observe the market and pave the way for initial customer contacts are often described as "representative offices." However, this term does not exist in German commercial law. A representative office must usually be registered as a branch office in Germany.
Only an office managed by a self-employed external business person (e.g. a commercial agent authorized by the company) can be considered a case in which no independent business activity is conducted on behalf of the foreign company. In this specific instance, registration with the local trade office is not required.
For information on setting up an autonomous or dependent branch office in Germany please read here: