Similar to patents, utility models protect new technical inventions by grating the holder the exclusive right to prevent third parties from exploiting an invention without authorization in the country where the utility model was registered. To obtain the protection, an application must be filed and the utility model must be granted.
In general terms, utility models can be an interesting protection mechanism for innovations that make small improvements to, and adaptations of, existing products or that have short commercial life or have an important role in a local innovation ecosystem and, that does not fulfill the patentability requirements.
In some countries, utility models are considered ‘weak patents’. In comparison to patents, utility models cannot be obtained at EU level, the right is territorial, being the protection available only in certain countries1 and under certain rules2. Hence, utility models must be filed individually in each country where protection is desired. The protection covers 3-10 years.
In counterpart, the registration process is faster and cheaper than a patent as no substantive examination is needed generally.
So, according to the exploitation strategy, the utility model could be an option but, it is important to consider that, when applying for a utility model, the holder has to disclose the invention to the public putting it in risk in the countries that is it not protected. Individuals or entities in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada can easily access to this information and take advantage of its disclosure to copy, use and exploit the invention in this countries without infringing the law.
Sources: EUIPO, WIPO.