Patents- utility models – what is the difference?

The utility model is a technical protective right related to the patent. A utility model protects inventions with the exception of a process against counterfeiting (Sec 1 of the German Utility Model Act (GebrMG). The maximum term is 10 years, which is shorter than the patent. No examination for novelty or inventive step takes place. The inventor or the company therefore obtains a fast-track protective right. However, it may turn out in a retrospective review in the course of invalidation proceedings to be a “fake right”. It is therefore advisable to submit a search request at the time of filing. Utility model applications must be filed in writing with the German Patent and Trademark Office.

Not protectable are:

Discoveries, scientific theories, mathematical methods, aesthetic creations, plans, rules and procedures for mental activities, for games or for business activities, computer programs and the reproduction of information (Sec. 1 GebrMG).

The invention is considered to be new if it does not form part of the state of the art. The state of the art comprises any knowledge made available to the public by means of a written description or by use in the Federal Republic of Germany before the date relevant for the priority of the application. Description or use within six months preceding the date relevant for the priority of the application is not taken into consideration if it is based on the conception of the applicant or their predecessor in title (period of grace, Sec. 3 (1) GebrMG). A registered utility model may be challenged by third parties in cancellation proceedings.

A German Utility Model is a perfect match for obtaining a fast, cheap and short running IP-protection in Germany, but should not be a first choice for protecting a long lasting, prospective and highly valuable technical innovation.