Utility Models - A Useful Alternative to Patents

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In many countries the time required to secure patent protection often exceeds two years. For technologies in which change occurs rapidly, a delay of more than two years from filing to grant can significantly weaken, and in some cases eliminate, the value of patent protection. By the time a patent issues, the protected technology may be obsolete and the marketplace may have moved on to a new and different technology.

Fortunately, several countries provide a quick and effective solution to this problem in the form of “utility model” protection, enabling IP owners to secure protection in a matter of months rather than years. Like a patent, a utility model is a registered right to protect a technical innovation. Like a patent, a utility model entitles its owner to prevent others from making, using, or selling the

innovation. Most inventions that can be protected by a patent can also be protected by a utility model.

In contrast to a patent, a utility model is typically obtained by using a pure “registration” procedure.

Under a registration procedure, the patent office in the jurisdiction granting protection will review a utility model application to ensure compliance with basic formal requirements. The patent office will generally not, however, substantively examine the invention and will not determine whether the invention is sufficiently different from the prior art to merit protection. Since substantive examination of the invention is not required, the utility model can be issued in a matter of months after filing, as

compared to the multi-year process required for issuance of most patents. The utility model applicant can therefore write and file the application, secure issuance of the utility model, and have an effective tool to use against an infringer within months of first discovering infringement. The elimination of a substantive examination also means that a utility model can be secured less expensively than a patent.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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