16 Feb 2017

Utility Models

The power of patents, in the today’s technology driven era, is known to almost every individual and protecting the ideas through patents is of utmost importance to every individual or business more than ever. Regardless of the importance, the cost and complexity of patent protection can create many hurdles for small to medium enterprises (SMEs). However, to remain ahead of competitors, patent protection is a must for such SMEs. Many of the countries have solved this dilemma by providing provision of “Utility models” commonly known as “Petty patents”. SMEs, today, are filing more and more utility models, to protect the inventions and products, which is a cheaper as well as a faster method of getting protection.

A utility model provides its owner, an exclusive right to prevent others from making, using and selling his invention without his permission for a limited time. The utility model is similar to the patent as it provides an exclusive right to the applicant for an invention. However, the requirements for obtaining a utility model are comparatively less stringent than the patent – a utility model is much cheaper to obtain, and requires less time for grant than the patent. That’s the reason utility models are sometimes referred to as “petty patents” or “innovation patents” or “short term patents”.

Not only the filing fees, issue fee, i.e. the cost of obtaining a utility model, but the maintenance fees of a utility model are also much less than a patent in most jurisdictions. The utility model provides a quick protection to the applicant for his invention, as it requires very less time for registration and grant than the patent. Due to these reasons, the utility patents have become a preferred choice for many of the individuals and SMEs than regular patent applications.

While utility models are not available in the countries like United Kingdom or the United States, they are widely available in non-English language countries like Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, China and Australia. A quick look at the statistics reveals that – in the year 2016, around 500207 patent applications were filed and 445480 utility models were filed in China. In Germany, these statistics were 6050 and 6624 respectively. Most of the utility models in China as well as Germany have been filed by SMEs, Universities and Individual inventors.

Looking from another perspective, being a low cost option, many a times multiple Utility models are filed for an invention by the applicants, in order to ensure better protection of their idea. In a longer run, this will have a significant impact on competition, and is likely to promote more litigations amongst competitors. Since no substantive examination is performed for utility models, relatively broader claims are granted. Therefore, they pose a greater threat of litigation to competitors. It has never been more important to check the presence of a potentially blocking Utility model before launching a product in the market, in order to avoid eventual litigation. Similar is the case while filing an application for patenting the invention. Around the world, many new patent applications have not been granted because of the rejections over utility models, making it imperative to perform a targeted searching for utility models.

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