Utility model

While it is often unjustly shrugged off as a “small patent”, in certain situations the utility model is the right choice. Being a technical protective right, many requirements apply to the utility model that also apply to a patent. In contrast to a patent, a utility model is an unexamined protective right. If the formal application requirements are met, the applicant will be the owner of a registered protective right in only a few weeks’ time.

The applicant can use the registered utility model straight away, e.g. in negotiations with business partners, for a license or for marketing purposes. The validity of a utility model is only checked if a court dispute has arisen.

A further advantage should not be overlooked: For a utility model, a so-called 6-month novelty grace period applies. Objects that have already been presented at a trade fair or via other channels may still obtain protection provided that the publication has not occurred longer than six months ago.

What can be protected by a utility model?

Like a patent, the utility model protects technical inventions. Subject to protection as a utility model are e.g. machines, devices and apparatus, but also switches and chemical products.

What cannot be protected by a utility model?

The most important difference from a patent is that a process cannot be protected by a utility model. For example, a chemical product can be protected as a utility model, but not the process for its manufacture. The same applies to a mechanical component. The component itself can be protected as a utility model, but the process for its manufacture cannot. In addition – just as with patents – aesthetic creations of form, i.e. design and rules for games and computer programs, i.e. software as such, are not protectable.

What are the pre-requisites for a utility model?

Exactly as is the case with patents, for utility models the criteria of “novelty”, “inventive step” and “industrial applicability” of the invention apply. As already outlined above, the 6-month novelty grace period facilitates many situations.

Where is the utility model application filed?

The utility model is filed at the German Patent and Trademark Office. The short formal examination is immediately followed by the registration and the issuance of the utility model certificate.

Which documents have to be provided?

As is the case with a patent application, a utility model application’s so-called “claims sets” are formulated to describe the core of the invention. Also, a detailed description of the invention has to be provided. Most often, technical drawings of the subject of the invention are added.

Expert preparation by a patent attorney has many advantages. Firstly, the patent attorney has a sound scientific education, which enables him to understand and describe your invention. Secondly, he also knows the formal and legal requirements for a utility model application. Thus, he can carefully prepare the application documents according to the required regulations and minimise the risk of a partial or complete cancellation in case of a dispute.

How long is the period of protection of a utility model?

A utility model protects a product for ten years at the most which renders the period of protection shorter than a patent. A utility model is initially registered for three years. After that, it can be renewed once by three years and twice by two years. In connection with the renewal, fees payable to the German Patent and Trademark Office become due.

How much does a utility model cost?

Please click here to view the costs of a utility model application.

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