Sometimes referred to as a petty patent or innovation patent, a utility model is an intellectual-property right available in many countries for protecting inventions, similar to utility patents. However, utility models have a shorter patent term (typically 5 to 15 years) than utility patents, but offer a more lenient examination process for the patent application with regard to patentability. Having a quick examination timetable and significantly lower fees, utility models are usually considered by intellectual property firms as being appropriate for protecting incremental inventions in an overall IP strategy.
Utility models are granted on inventions that are considered novel (excluding methods and plants); however, in many jurisdictions, substantive examination is not conducted, with filing formalities being the only criteria required for grant. In Germany, knowledge of an invention in the public domain (whether in writing or in use) before the patent application priority date (excluding a 6-month grace period) is the benchmark for granting utility models.
Considering another jurisdiction where utility models are frequently filed as an example, the novelty requirement for a utility model in Spain relies on local novelty (or relative novelty). This means that an invention needs to be novel only in Spain to be grantable, as opposed to utility patents which require absolute novelty (meaning not disclosed in the broader public domain). In many jurisdictions, utility models can be filed from a PCT application, and can be converted from a utility-patent application – another factor to consider in the IP strategy of a patent portfolio.
Utility models can be valuable components in forming an effective IP strategy, allowing time-pacing of the competition and/or technology area by the applicant to compete in markets that won’t stand still. Furthermore, utility models can fill the gaps in a patent cascade in which examination timetables and filing costs of a parallel patent application are synchronized to maximize strategic value as part of a carefully-planned continuation practice. Often, these issues can be the distinguishing features in executing a strong filing strategy to securing IP rights, taking competitors by surprise, and providing valuable leveraging in advancing a business venture.
FlashPoint IP, a leader among intellectual property firms, factors these wide-ranging aspects into the process of securing patent protection, whether in performing a patent search and patent analysis of the prior art, engaging in patent drafting of applications, selecting how and where to file a patent application, or prosecuting your claims to an invention to help you maximize value in an extensive array of practice areas. Our patent attorneys are adept at synthesizing the many facets needed to create a winning formula for your IP.
FPIP files patent applications on behalf of its clients directly before the USPTO, EPO, WIPO, and ILPO, and worldwide via our network of professional associates. Contact us to discuss your options regarding IP strategy and positioning, and how best to secure your rights.