What are the differences between a patent and a utility model?

What are the differences between a patent and a utility model?

Information from the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA)

  • Field of use

Inventions which are new, involve an inventive step and have an industrial application can be protected by a patent as well as by an utility model. However, it is important to mention that technical and chemical processes can only be patented but cannot be protected by an utility model.

  • Term

Utility models confers exclusivity for a maximum period of only 10 years. This is an important difference to patents. A patent can be maintained for a period of 20 years, in special cases (drugs) for a period of 25 years.

The legal protection of an utility model is initially valid for 3 years. After 3, 6 and 8 years the legal protection can be extended. At each step a maintenance fee has to be paid.

  • Process

The patent office does not check the novelty, inventive step and industrial application of an utility model. Only in a later cancellation procedure or infringement suit these conditions are examined. Therefore an utility model can be achieved simpler, faster and cheaper than a patent. But there is also a bigger risk that it will be attacked and revoked.

Patents in contrast  are only granted after an examination of novelty, inventive step and industrial application. These step are often very time-consuming and costly.

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