What Is a Utility Model?

A utility model is an intellectual property right that is similar to a utility patent and granted to protect inventions which gives the holder exclusive rights to the invention often for a shorter term of 6 to 15 years and less strict patentability requirements. Utility models take six months to one year to obtain and they are best suited for smaller improvements on existing inventions or processes.

Why Are Utility Models Important?

Small and medium size businesses need to protect their inventions and products to stay competitive. However, patents are expensive and hard to get. A utility model is a quicker and cheaper option. Like a patent, utility model applications include drawings, claims, and a description.

History of Utility Models

The first utility model started with the German Law on June 1, 1891. Then Japan created a similar law 15 years later. Germany and Japan originally required that an invention be a technical advance in order to receive a utility model. However, with the European Patent Convention of 1978, both countries gave up this need.

Reasons to Consider Using a Utility Model

  • Shorter protection period is good for products with a quick life
  • A novel or inventive step isn't required
  • Good for new mechanical methods
  • Can protect small improvements
  • Can protect changes that don't qualify for a patent
  • Usually no inspection needed
  • Can get faster than patent
  • Fast registration means you can enforce protection against infringers sooner
  • Follows same legal activities as patent trials in civil court
  • Cheaper than patent
  • Can branch off from a patent application
  • Some countries let you change patent application to utility model application

Reasons to Consider Not Using a Utility Model

  • Not offered in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom
  • Some countries don't extend or renew them
  • Not as widely used
  • Rules vary from country to country
  • Not granted for methods or processes

Where Are Utility Models Offered?

The countries and regions that offer utility model protection include:

Andean Community

  • Started in 1992
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection

Argentina

  • Started in 1996
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection

African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI)

  • Started in 1977
  • Lasts for 10 years

Australia

  • Started in 1979 and 2001
  • Lasts for eight years
  • Doesn't need an inspection
  • Called innovation patent

Austria

  • Started in 1994
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection

Belgium

  • Started in 1987
  • Lasts for six years
  • Doesn't need an inspection
  • Called a short-term patent

Belarus

  • Started in 1997
  • Lasts for eight years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Brazil

  • Started in 1945
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection

Bulgaria

  • Started in 1993
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection

Colombia

  • Started in 1992
  • Lasts for 10 years

Chile

  • Started in 1991
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection

China

  • Includes Hong Kong and Macau
  • Started in 1985
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Czech Republic

  • Started in 1992
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Denmark

  • Started in 1991
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Finland

  • Started in 1993
  • Lasts for 10 years

France

  • Started in 1968
  • Lasts for six years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Germany

Germany will grant utility model protection for inventions that are:

  • New
  • Have a creative step
  • Useful in any area of industry
  • Chemicals
  • Food
  • Medicine

Germany doesn't grant utility models for:

  • Discoveries
  • Scientific theories
  • Math methods
  • Teaching methods
  • Blueprints
  • Patterns
  • Rules for playing games
  • Accounting systems
  • Computer programs
  • Process inventions
  • Biotechnology inventions
  • Animals
  • Plants

If you want to apply for a utility model in Germany, keep in mind that:

  • They started in 1891
  • You can have a patent and a utility model for the same invention
  • You register at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office
  • It will first last for three years
  • You can renew after three, six, and eight years
  • It doesn't need an inspection
  • You have time to get a utility model even if you already published the invention

Greece

Greece will give a utility model for an object that:

  • Has a definite shape
  • Has a new way of doing something
  • Offers a solution to a problem

Utility models don't protect:

  • Discoveries
  • Scientific theories
  • Math methods
  • Art creations

If you want to get a utility model in Greece, you need to know that:

  • They started in 1988
  • You can apply at the Industrial Property Organisation
  • A utility model lasts for seven years and a patent lasts for 20 years
  • Utility models protect your object from third parties
  • You have one year from date of filing in Greece to file an application in other countries
  • It doesn't need an inspection

Guatemala

  • Started in 1986
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection

Hungary

  • Started in 1992
  • Lasts for 10 years

Indonesia

  • Started in 1991
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection
  • Called a simple patent

Ireland

  • Started in 1992
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection
  • Called a short-term patent

Italy

  • Started in 1934
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Japan

In Japan you can get a utility model for:

  • A device related to other items
  • A device useful in industry

Utility models don't protect:

  • A manufacturing process

If you want to apply for a utility model in Japan, you need to know that:

  • They started in 1905
  • They last for 10 years
  • They do not extend
  • You can protect your invention with just a patent or just a utility model
  • You can change a utility model application to a patent application within three years
  • If the office gets two applications for the same item, the application that came in first gets the utility model
  • They don't need an inspection

Korea

  • Started in 1961
  • Lasts for 15 years
  • Needs an inspection

Malaysia

  • Started in 1986
  • Lasts for 15 years
  • Needs an inspection
  • Called a utility innovation

Mexico

  • Started in 1991
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection

Netherlands

  • Started in 1995
  • Lasts for six years
  • Doesn't need an inspection
  • Called a short-term patent

Panama

  • Started in 1996
  • Lasts for 10 years

Peru

  • Started in 1992
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Philippines

  • Started in 1947
  • Lasts for 15 years
  • Needs an inspection

Poland

  • Started in 1924
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection

Portugal

  • Started in 1940
  • Lasts for 15 years
  • Needs an inspection

Russia

  • Started in 1992
  • Lasts for 8 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Slovakia

  • Started in 1992
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Spain

  • Started in 1929
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Taiwan

  • Started in 1944
  • Lasts for 12 years
  • Needs an inspection

Thailand

  • Started in 1999
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection
  • Called a petty patent

Turkey

  • Started in 1995
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Ukraine

  • Started in 1993
  • Lasts for 8 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Uruguay

  • Started in 1976
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Doesn't need an inspection

Vietnam

  • Started in 1995
  • Lasts for 10 years
  • Needs an inspection
  • Called a utility solution

Other countries that offer utility models include:

  • Albania
  • Angola
  • African Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO)
  • Armenia
  • Aruba
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • Estonia
  • Ethiopia
  • Georgia
  • Honduras
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Republic of Moldova
  • Tajikistan
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Uzbekistan

A utility model is a good option for inventors looking to protect their items without the cost and time of a patent. If you think a utility model might work for you, you can post your legal need here and receive free custom quotes from an attorney from UpCounsel who can help you through the process of submitting an application. You can post your question or concern on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.