Utility model, what is it?

The  German utility model protects similarly to the German Patent the technical features of an invention which also has the result that a utility model and a patent are frequently very similar in structure. Also the protection requirements of the utility model are similar to those of the patent.

However there are essential differences from the patent

A technical method, i.e. for example a method for controlling a machine cannot be protected by a utility model because methods have been excluded from protection by  utility model by the German legislator.

Another difference is that the utility model is registered by the German Patent and Trademark Office in the form in which it is applied for, therefore there is no factual examination by the office for the adherence to the protection requirements similar to the patent. The question of the legal validity of a utility model can only be examined when rights against an infringer are derived from the utility model, i.e. in infringement proceedings or in a cancellation proceedings which is aimed at cancellation of the utility model.

Finally the utility model has a maximum term of 10 years whereas the patent has a term of up to 20 years.

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