countries, inventions may also be protected by utility models, which are also
known as "petty patents" or "utility innovations." The conditions for the
registration of utility models are usually less stringent (since no inventive
step or only a less significant inventive step is required), the procedure for
registration is faster (since novelty and inventive step are usually not
examined prior to registration) and acquisition and maintenance fees are
generally lower than those applicable to patents. Applications are usually to be
filed with the
national IP office.
What is a Utility Model?
utility model is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which allows the
right holder to prevent others from commercially using the protected invention,
without his authorization, for a limited period of time. In its basic
definition, which may vary from one country (where such protection is available)
to another, a utility model is similar to a patent. In fact, utility models are
sometimes referred to as “petty patents” or “innovation patents.”
main differences between utility models and patents are the following:
requirements for acquiring a utility model are less stringent than for
patents. While the requirement of "novelty" is always to be met, that of
"inventive step" or "non-obviousness" may be much lower or absent
altogether. In practice, protection for utility models is often sought for
innovations of a rather incremental character which may not meet the
term of protection for utility models is shorter than for patents and varies
from country to country (usually between 7 and 10 years without the
possibility of extension or renewal).
most countries where utility model protection is available, patent offices
do not examine applications as to substance prior to registration. This
means that the registration process is often significantly simpler and
faster, taking, on average, six months.
Utility models are much cheaper to obtain and to maintain (see “How
Can Your SME Acquire and Maintain IP Protection?”).
some countries, utility model protection can only be obtained for certain
fields of technology and only for products but not for processes.
models are considered particularly suited for SMEs that make “minor”
improvements to , and adaptations of, existing products. Utility models are
primarily used for mechanical innovations.
“Innovation patent,” recently launched in Australia, was introduced as a result
of extensive research into the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, with
the aim of providing a “low-cost entry point into the intellectual property
system.” See link to press release in
can Utility Models be Acquired?
Currently, a small but significant number of countries provide utility model
protection. These include: Australia, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Belarus,
Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark,
Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala,
Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mexico,
Netherlands, OAPI, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea,
Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Spain, Tajikistan, Trinidad &
Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Uzbekistan.
countries where the national legislation does not provide for utility model
protection, SMEs may either apply for a patent (see “How
Can Your SME Acquire and Maintain Intellectual Property Rights” and “How
do you Turn Inventions Into Profit-making Assets of Your SME?”) or keep the
invention as a trade secret (see “Protecting
the Trade Secrets of Your SME”).
overview of utility models in the European context and on utility models as an
alternative to patents is provided by the website of the
IPR-Helpdesk of the European Commission.