Utility models can be registered in some countries to protect technical innovations which might not qualify for a patent. The requirements of protection vary from country to country. However, most countries will only grant utility models for products, not for methods or processes. Because the novelty and inventive step requirements are less stringent than those required for patents, utility models can be useful for incremental inventions where only a small change has been made and which might not meet the inventive step requirements for a patent.
Utility models are a more flexible and less costly way of protection of technical inventions than patents. The degree of inventive step is required but in a lower grade than for a patent and the maximum duration of protection is shorter.
There is no European or international utility model protection. The rules for utility model registrations vary from country to country. Consequently, the requirements for utility model protection will vary depending on the particular national regulations.
One of the main advantages is that filing a utility model is much cheaper than obtaining and maintaining a patent. The lower costs associated with utility models mean that they could be particularly useful for SMEs. Another advantage is that the utility model is normally granted faster than a patent. The utility model will be easily granted since there is usually no substantive examination (e.g. on novelty.) The inventive step requirements are lower than for patents.
If a patent application is refused, many countries allow the conversion of a patent application into a utility model application. However, in some countries there is a time limit for doing so.
Yes, when a European patent is revoked, or when a European patent application is rejected or withdrawn.
This possibility exists in some countries. For example, in Germany it is possible to obtain and keep both a patent and a utility model for the same invention. If a utility model is branched off from a patent application, the patent application can continue to be pursued to the grant stage as well. However, in other countries, such as Japan and China, only a single right for the same invention is allowed to remain in force.