Patent or utility model? What’s the difference?

Let us make it clear for you.
Patent and utility models are not the same thing, even if you have probably heard sometimes that utility models are just “small patents”. 

Patents and utility models protect technical inventions that are new, based on an inventive step and commercially applicable. They confer on their owner the privilege, limited in time and space, to dispose of the invention alone. Such technical property rights play an important role in business decisions, as they allow economic benefits to be derived from the invention, e.g. by granting of licences.

However, there are differences between the two:

While a patent is subject to a detailed examination by patent examiners for novelty, inventive step (and also industrial application, which in most cases, however, only plays a subordinate role), a utility model is a pure registration right in which only the formal requirements are examined, e.g. whether it is a technical invention. In this way, a fully-fledged, enforceable IP right can be obtained quickly by filing a utility model application. However, since there is no detailed examination for novelty and inventive step, it is often questionable whether a registered utility model actually fulfils the relevant requirements, because it is only in the event of a dispute that it is determined whether the utility model is actually legally valid.

ATTENTION! The existing prior state of art should be urgently researched before filing the application in order to avoid high costs later, such as attorney’s fees and court costs or, in the worst case, claims for damages.

Further differences between patent and utility model are the maximum term (patent 20 years, utility model 10 years, in each case from the filing date) and the fact that no processes can be protected with a utility model.

In addition, in contrast to the patent, utility model protection is not available in all countries, and there is no European or international utility model application.

Common to both patents and utility models is the so-called territoriality principle, i.e. these IP rights are only valid in the country for which they were granted.

Do you have more questions? Contact us. We are a team of legal experts specialized in IP-Rights.