1. What is a German utility model?
A German utility model is a right for technical inventions, which confers on its proprietor an exclusive right to an invention. Any third party is prohibited to manufacture, to offer, to place on the market, to use or to import the patented subject-matter without the consent of the proprietor.
The term of a German utility model is initially 3 years and may be renewed up to a total of 10 years.
The protective effect of a German utility model or a utility model application is limited to the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany.
2. What may be subject to a utility model registration?
Technical inventions are protected as utility model, if they are new, involve an inventive step and are susceptible of industrial application. Consequently, basically all technical devices may be subject to patent protection, provided that they are of a technical nature. However, methods cannot be protected by a utility model.
Further, the following subject-matter is excluded from protection: Discoveries and scientific theories and mathematical methods; aesthetic creations, schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts and the mere presentation of information regarding games or business methods, and computer software, provided that the German patent application relates to such subject-matter or activities as such.
For additional information on the legal regulations, please also have a look at the website of the GPTO or contact one of our German patent attorneys in Munich.
In relation to novelty, the state of the art comprises any documents that have been published before the application date of the Utility Model. This includes, for example, patent specifications or articles in scientific reviews. Consequently, the state of the art relevant for utility models comprises written publications from all over the world and – in contrast to the patent – public use only in Germany (not in other countries).
A German utility model has got a 6-month grace period. I. e. that the inventor can still apply for a utility model, even if the invention has been disclosed within a period of no more than 6 months before filing.
3. How can I register a utility model?
A utility model application can be submitted to the German Patent and Trademark Office (GPTO). The documents of a utility model application must include: A description, at least one claim, drawings (optional).
Further information can be found on the website of the German Patent and Trademark Office and in particular in the “Guidelines for Utility Model applicants”.
4. What happens after filing a utility model?
The utility model unit of the GPTO checks whether your application comprises all required elements, and whether the invention is of a technical nature and eligible for utility model protection. If all formal requirements are met, and the registration fee has been paid, the GPTO will register the utility model. Since the GPTO does not conduct a substantive examination – in contrast to patents -, it is much easier, faster and less expensive to obtain protection for a utility model in comparison to a patent.
Please note that a utility model will be registered even if the subject-matter is not new and does not involve an inventive step. In this case, however, the registration does not have any legal effect, but is only a pseudo registration from which no rights can be derived. The validity of the utility model is usually not assessed until litigation proceedings or revocation proceedings take place. I.e. the holder of a utility model registration bares a significant risk that it turns out that the utility model is actually not valid.
Please feel free to contact us for any questions about utility models. Our German and European patent attorneys in Munich will be pleased to advise you.
5. How much does a utility model cost?
In addition to the official fees, attorney fees for preparing the application documents and for filing the utility model application fall due. The fee for preparing the application documents depends on the effort involved. Please contact us for an individual offer.
After filing, renewal fees have to be paid at regular intervals.
You may also find detailed information on the costs of a German utility model application or a German utility model over its entire term of 10 years on our website.