The utility model is – like the patent – a technical property right, and is often called the ‘little brother’ of the patent.
Advantage over patents: utility models are not examined for novelty or the existence of an inventive step: they are therefore generally entered in the register only a few weeks after the date of the application. This offers enterprises or inventors the chance to get their hands on ‘their right’ quickly, and thus to create a solid basis for marketing, advertising, sales or licences.
A further particular feature of the utility model is the six-month grace period under Section 3(1) of the German Utility Model Act (GebrMG). This means that the presentation of an invention by the inventor, for example at a trade fair or a conference, does not preclude registration if this ‘pre-publication’ has occurred within the last six months.
The scope of application of a utility model is very similar to that of a patent: technical inventions, for example machines, apparatus and devices, circuitry and chemical products are examples of items that are eligible for protection. However, methods and processes cannot be protected by way of a utility model!
The term of protection of a utility model is a maximum of 10 years from the date of filing of the application. After three years, it can be renewed for a further three years and, thereafter, on two further occasions by two years in each case. As regards the renewal fees for a utility model, fees must also be paid to the relevant patent office.