The protection of utility models is no longer just practical for hobby inventors, but an important tool for companies that want to protect innovations they have developed themselves. In this article we will therefore show you what exactly a utility model protection is, how it is applied and what possibilities arise from it.
Utility model protection – definition
Who makes an invention that is new, involves an inventive step is based (this is also called ” inventive step ” hereinafter) and is industrially applicable, this invention can be protected. No patent is required for this. You can also choose the option of utility model protection . This is much cheaper than a patent and easier to obtain. Utility models are registered based on the utility model law .
There are partly parallels, partly clear differences and demarcations between utility models and patents. Therefore, in the following, we will go into more detail on how you can differentiate between patents and utility models.
Protection of utility models – the difference to a patent
As long as the requirements for a utility model are met, you can protect almost anything as a utility model. What you cannot protect in this way, however, are any kind of application method . You can protect any form of application process purely by patenting . So if you have developed a certain process and now want to protect it, you have to accept the effort of starting a proper patenting process.
For the utility model, the bar in terms of the inventive step is somewhat lower than is the case with a patent . The invention must be such that it represents significantly more than something that a talented craftsman can achieve. An inventive step would be expressly required for a correct patent . Obviously, the line here is a bit difficult to draw and there is a certain degree of subjectivity, but historical decisions and the current legislation make it clearer where the line to inventive step runs.
One of the most important differences between utility models and patents is also that the utility model is unexamined protection . This means that the three mentioned factors are not checked in advance, but the entry is made without checking. Correspondingly, however, such an entry can also be challenged again and, if necessary, deleted. The utility model is therefore always exposed to a certain degree of uncertainty.
Anyone who registers a utility model also receives only shorter protection in terms of time. This is ten years , while patents are valid for twenty years .
Utility Model Ordinance and Utility Model Act
What exactly you can protect, what are the requirements and where are the limits – all these are aspects that are clarified in the Utility Model Ordinance and the Utility Model Act.
What is protected in the utility model?
As already briefly mentioned, no procedures can be protected. For example, no processes with which you can manufacture a certain product or a method of using an existing technology. Any form of procedural protection automatically falls within the scope of patents.
In the case of a utility model, the technical invention is thus protected, which must be new, have a decisive inventive step as a basis and must be commercially usable. These criteria are clearly defined, but they are not checked in advance, but only when a registered utility model is challenged and is to be deleted. It should also be noted in this context that the other technical current status is always used to clarify whether it is really a relevant innovation.
Apart from the procedures that cannot be protected as utility models, there are also other exceptions that cannot be protected as utility models. You can find precise definitions in the ordinance and in the law. Examples are:
- Math calculations
- Aesthetic creations
- Plant and animal species
If you now want to register a utility model, your invention meets the criteria and you have already checked whether there is an exception, you can take the next step and take care of the registration of the utility model .
How is a utility model registered?
The registration of the utility model is carried out at the Patent Office ( DPMA ). Subsequently, if the application has been properly filed, the utility model will be registered and published without examination. It is just as easy as it is possible to register the utility model, but it is also possible to request deletion if there are insufficient protection options. This occurs when the necessary criteria for utility model protection have never been met.
In the course of the application, there are low fees that are minimal compared to the patent application. Overall, the utility model registration is therefore quick and easy.
Inventions excluded from utility model protection
It can happen that you have discovered something new, but it is still not possible to register a utility model. In principle, this is the case with all processes that have to be patented. There are also other exceptions, such as scientific theories or mathematical methods – these may have come about through hard work and may even have not been known until now, but unfortunately a utility model protection is not possible in these cases.
The background is that a test would be practically impossible and there is also practically no protection if we stick to the example of a mathematical calculation, since ultimately other people could also research and carry out this calculation or may have done this much earlier.
Where is protection and how long is a utility model valid?
The utility model is only valid for ten years , while a patent can be registered for twenty years . This is a significant difference, because with really valuable inventions, it can make a significant financial difference as well.
The utility model protection is possible for Germany and Austria . With a patent, you would have the option of entering other regions or even applying for a global patent .
Registration procedure, violation of protection and end of protection
The registration via the patent office described above is quick, easy and inexpensive. The protection for the utility model ends when the ten-year period has expired. Alternatively, the utility model can also expire earlier if, for example, it turns out that the application for protection was wrongly applied and a deletion is carried out.
If the utility model protection is violated, this can have legal consequences. If you have registered a utility model protection and someone violates it, it is still best to first contact yourself and point out the protection, because the other person may simply not know it. Legal disputes can usually be resolved more quickly in this direct way.
Alternatively, direct legal action can be taken in the event of an infringement. If someone violates your utility model protection, they have to provide information about the extent to which this has happened and immediately stop doing so. In addition, claims for damages can be asserted. In some cases, there are additional legal options that should be checked individually by a professional and cannot be summarized here as a general rule.
If you are in the position that you are unsure yourself whether you are violating the utility model of a third party, you can inspect files and find out about existing design protection at the patent office.
How much does utility model protection cost?
There are various fees that may apply to utility models. If you simply submit an electronic application for utility model protection, you only pay 30 euros for it. If, on the other hand, you submit an application for deletion , for example , you have to reckon with fees of 300 euros .
Aside from the fees, it is important to consider that you may need advice or consult a lawyer so that you are sure to do everything right.
Utility model research
So that all the effort is not in vain, you first have to invest a lot of time in researching existing utility models and patents. For this purpose, the Patent Office provides access to various databases, including international ones, free of charge. In this way, you can check in advance whether comparable property rights already exist and you should therefore not register a utility model. You may even discover an existing property right that you have violated because you did not know it before.
Solid research is therefore the sensible basis for any utility model protection.
Utility model example
Let’s imagine you have been working as a craftsman for a long time and you keep having the same problem. One day you have an idea how to solve the problem and get all the craftsmen out of the way. So you work out a precise plan, build prototypes and ultimately manage to develop a completely new type of machine that can permanently solve the problem. There is nothing comparable on the market and the small device is also well received by other craftsmen.
You find out through a search that there is no relevant, existing protection and therefore register a utility model with the patent office to protect your idea against copies.
At first glance, the utility model looks like the little brother of the patent. But there are clear differences and the utility model is certainly useful for technical achievements. The low costs ensure that this protection is not only accessible to established companies, but can also protect individuals and small businesses with ideas. It is important that enough time is invested in the research beforehand. Subsequently, it should be considered whether patenting would also be possible, for example if it is an invention that may be globally protected and subsequently marketed. Anyone who is faced with this decision should definitely consult a professional and get appropriate support for the further process.