Germany is one of the top countries for the registration of utility models with 10577 registrations being filed in 2021. The regulations for the German utility model are outlined in the Utility Model Act (Gebrauchsmustergesetz) and the Utility Model Ordinance (Gebrauchsmusterverordnung).
In Germany, a utility model can be filed to protect technical inventions as well as chemical substances, foodstuffs, and medicinal products. Inventions related to methods are however excluded by law. This prevents, for example, utility models from being registered for method of manufacture or working processes. Computer-implemented inventions (short CII) if written as system or device patents are not considered to be methods and, therefore, can be protected by utility models.
The claimed subject-matter of the registered utility model must be novel and inventive as well as industrially applicable. The definition of novelty is different from that found in the patent law and includes a so-called “grace period” of six months (§ 3 GebrMG). This enables an applicant to show, publish, or use the subject-matter of the utility model in public and still get IP protection at least in Germany (and some other countries, like Austria). This is similar to the grace period of twelve months for patent protection in countries like the United States or Australia.
The procedure of registering a utility model is fast. Registration can be achieved usually within a few weeks and the utility model application is immediately published – there is not 18-month period before publication. There is no substantive examination of the claimed subject-matter from the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (GPTO) and the protection granted by the utility model becomes effective upon registration. This contrasts with prosecution of a patent application which can often takes several years before a patent application is examined and finally granted. As a result, utility models are especially interesting in the case in which IP protection is desired as soon as possible.
The official fees for filing utility models are significantly lower compared to patents. At the time of writing, the application fee is 30 € for filing and a first maintenance fee after 3 years of 210 € (fees by the GPTO). This contrasts with fees for a patent application which is in Germany of 350 € and 1750 € for a European patent application (see fees by the GPTO / EPO). In addition, there will be the costs involved in writing the application. The utility model therefore provides an economic option for protecting IP.
We would be delighted to help you with the preparation and filing of utility models. Please get in touch if you have any questions.
Philipp Bauer, Dr. Robert Harrison (Patentanwalt)