A utility model is a form of intellectual property for protecting technical inventions. A purpose of the utility model is to provide protection for technical inventions not meeting the higher requirements of inventive step set for patent protection. Compared with a patent, the utility model has the advantages of quick official handling and lower costs. However, the utility model does not provide as strong protection as the patent. It has a shorter maximum term of protection, and it may have a more limited scope. Moreover, a utility model may be easier to invalidate than a patent because the novelty and the inventive step of the utility model are not examined by a patent authority.
A utility model can be used to protect an invention which is new, industrially applicable and clearly different from relevant prior inventions.
For example, the utility model can be used to protect a product or a device but not a method nor a novel use of a known product or device.
The utility model provides its proprietor with the right to prohibit others from commercially exploiting the object protected by the utility model.
The maximum term of protection for the utility model is 10 years. The utility model is a regional right, so that a utility model valid in Finland provides protection in Finland only.
In particular, a utility model is useful for inventions which are slight improvements to prior art and do not meet the higher requirements of inventive step set for patent protection.
An application for utility model normally proceeds to registration within a few months, whereas the processing of a patent application may typically take about 1 to 3 years.
The utility model is a good option for companies wanting to protect their inventions at lower application costs and/or to obtain protection within the shortest feasible timespan.
Anyone may attempt to invalidate a registered utility model by lodging an invalidation claim against it. The invalidation claim can also be lodged after the expiry of the registration.
In many cases, a ground for the invalidation claim is lack of novelty or inventive step of the invention, because these are not examined during the registration process of the utility model application. As a result, utility models which could be relatively easily invalidated may end up in the register. On the other hand, invalidation may turn up to be challenging in some cases, because the inventive step of the utility model merely requires a clear difference to the known technique.
When considering the appropriate form of protection, you should weigh your own business needs. If the invention only relates to a method or a use, protection by a utility model is not feasible.
If it is uncertain whether the requirement of inventive step for patent protection is met, and/or if protection should be obtained promptly, then a utility model is a good option. Particularly in a situation where protection should be obtained as soon as possible, it may be reasonable to file a patent application and a utility model application at the same time.
When selecting the form of protection, you should be aware that a patent application can be converted to a utility model application at a later stage, but conversion the other way around is not possible. However, similarly to a patent application, priority can be claimed from a utility model application for patent or utility model applications relating to the same invention.
A utility model may be a more preferred option for inventions whose profits would not be sufficient to cover the costs of patenting. A utility model registration may also provide a cost-effective way to publish an invention, particularly if the invention is of secondary importance for the business or if the inventive step is limited.