Telling the difference between patents and utility models
27 Feb 2018

Telling the difference between patents and utility models

Patents and utility models are two different legal mechanisms that can be used to protect a new product or innovative procedure that you developed. These two concepts have several things in common but we want to make sure that you know the differences, the requirements, and what each legal protection mechanism can be used for.

What are patents?

A patent grants an exclusive right over a product or procedure that has been newly invented. It can be used, for example, to register an innovative article or an improvement in the way something is done. For example, you might want to patent the solution to a technical problem or a new object. 

What are utility models? 

Utility models are sometimes known as "small patents". They also grant an exclusive right preventing third parties from using an invention for commercial purposes without the patent holder's authorization. A Utility Model protects an invention that is new and involves an inventive step that consists of changing the configuration, structure, or constitution of an object so as to offer a barely perceptible advantage in its use or manufacturing.

What are utility models used for?

As you can see, the differences are very slight. To better understand the concept, let's see what these models can be used for. Generally speaking, they are useful for SMEs that want to register small breakthroughs and improvements to existing devices. For instance, they could be used to protect a special brush for applying a type of paint that already exists.

Utility Models are considered a simpler way of patenting an invention. It is important to keep in mind the object that you are protecting, since utility models can only apply to products, not procedures.  Each type of legal protection is subject to different requirements.

Differences in requirements

Patents must involve an international novelty. This is determined by drawing up a Report on the State of the Art to define the degree of novelty and the inventive step. The application process can take up to 36 months and protection is usually granted for twenty years.

Utility models must involve a national novelty. A two-month grace period is allowed for any third-party objections. The application takes approximately six months and protection can be granted for up to ten years.

In both cases, the invention must be industrially applicable. This means that it must be possible to manufacture and/or use the object or procedure in question in an industrial context. Keeping up protection in both categories involves paying an annual fee.

This means that although patents are better in the sense that they offer more and longer protection, they also require worldwide novelty and a significant inventive step, which makes utility models the ideal alternative for inventions of objects that involve a less ground-breaking technical solution.

In a globalized world, relying on expert guidance on intellectual property management and technological innovation is becoming increasingly important. At SHIP Global IP, we are experts in dealing with every aspect of industrial property, from patent translation to payment of annual fees, including carrying out any formalities involved in protecting an invention.






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