A Utility Model is an Intellectual Property Right to protect inventions, mainly of incremental nature. It is an exclusive right granted for an invention, for a limited period of time, which allows the holder of the right to prevent others from commercially using the invention, without his authorization. The concept is originated in the U.S. Utility Model is similar to a Patent, though granted for a shorter period of time and with less stringent patentability requirements. Utility Models are often referred to as "Petty Patents" or "Innovation Patents". Patent Law in India does not provide for registration of Utility Model.
The rights conferred by Utility Model laws are also very similar to those granted by patent laws. The rights may also vary from one country to another, where such protection is available. The major differences between Utility Models and Patents are the following:
The requirements for acquiring a utility model are less stringent than for patents. While the requirement of "novelty" has always to be met, that of "inventive step" or "non-obviousness" may be much lower or absent altogether
The period of protection for utility models is shorter than for Patents and may vary from country to country (usually between 6 and 15 years).
In most countries where Utility Model protection is available, Patent offices do not examine applications as to substance prior to registration.
The registration process is often significantly simpler and faster, which takes approximately six months, on an average.
In some countries, Utility Model protection can only be obtained for certain fields of technology and only for products but not for processes.
Utility Models are much cheaper to obtain and also to maintain
Utility Models are considered particularly suited for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and companies that make minor improvements to, and adaptations of, existing products. Utility Models are primarily used for mechanical innovations.
The majority of countries having Utility Model laws require that the invention be new. The related establishments or offices do not, however, conduct substantive examination and grant the Utility Model after merely checking that the applications comply with formalities. Some countries exclude particular subject matter from Utility Model protection. For example, methods, plants and animals are normally barred from utility model protection.
The novelty requirement for obtaining a Utility Model in Spain is "relative", i.e. only public written disclosure of the invention is prejudicial against the novelty of the invention claimed in the utility model. This is in contrast with Spanish Patents for which absolute novelty is required. Utility Model in Germany is considered to be new if it does not form part of the state of the art. The state of the art comprises any knowledge made available to the public by means of a written description or by use within Germany before the date relevant for the priority of the application.
Only a small but considerable number of countries and regions provide the option of Utility Model protection. Utility model is called by the "Gebrauchsmuster" in Austria and Germany, "Innovation Patent" in Australia, "Utility Innovation" in Malaysia and "Petty Patent" in Indonesia.
Utility Model Patent is not available in India where normal patent application has to be filed in such cases. However, priority can be claimed for such application filed in India from Utility Model Patent application filed in convention country.
A government discussion paper on introducing a system of utility model patents in India has been placed open recently for comments from public and interested parties, which is availed at http://dipp.nic.in/ipr-feedback/Utility_Models
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