What is a Utility Model?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A utility model is a method of intellectual property protection for inventions, allowing the inventor to hold an exclusive monopoly on the invention for a limited period of time so he can recoup the costs of development. The process for filing is rapid and the requirements for certification are less stringent than for patents, providing a method for getting quick protection with the goal of preventing competitors from infringing on the market. Not all nations offer a utility model, and it is important for people to check with the patent and trademark office to find out more about what kinds of registration are available, how to apply, and any restrictions and limitations.

Woman posing
Woman posing

Also known as an innovation or petty patent, the utility model grants the inventor the right to sell or license the invention, providing a mechanism for transferring it with authorization. This allows people to develop products and then license the right to make them to another party, profiting from the other company's production without losing their intellectual property rights. At the expiration of the utility model, anyone can start producing the invention and using it in their own products. Protections can last between six and 15 years, depending on the nation.

In order to receive a utility model, the applicant must show how the invention is original, and cannot file for protection on an existing, well known, and currently used invention. Requirements like non-obviousness are often not in place for this kind of protection, and patent offices usually conduct only a short investigation to make sure the invention qualifies. People may be able to turn an application around in a matter of weeks — a significant difference from patents, which can drag on for months.

A person interested in a utility model can file for mechanical inventions, pharmaceutical products, food, and certain other things. Many nations exempt plants and animals, so people who breed or engineer new organisms will have to pursue other avenues of intellectual property protection if they are concerned about the integrity of their work. A patent office can provide detailed information about what is eligible for protection in a given nation and how to file.

Utility models are not internationally recognized. In nations where this model is not present, people cannot receive protection this way. In nations where this is an option, people can file an international patent application for a utility model, although the terms may vary from their home nations.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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