Inventions and utility models

To protect one’s technical solution, when is it more appropriate to file an application for an invention, and when for a utility model?

This decision should be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the subject matter and goals of patenting, as well as taking into account the specifics provided in the table below.

CharacteristicsInventionUtility Model
Object of protectionProduct (in particular device, substance, strain of microorganism, cell culture of plants or animals) or methodDevice
Patentability criteriaNovelty, inventive step, industrial applicabilityNovelty, industrial applicability
Term of protection20 years (with a possible extension up to 5 years for inventions relating to such products as a drug, pesticide or agrochemical product, if their use requires a statutory authorization and more than five years have lapsed from the filing date of the patent application to the date of obtaining the first authorization)10 years
Approximate time to obtain a patent24 – 36 months6 - 12 months

As one can see from the table, only a device can be protected as a utility model. At the same time, invention patents grant protection to devices, chemical substances, strains of microorganisms, cell cultures of plants or animals, as well as methods. For example, if there is a need to obtain patent protection for a chemical substance, one should file an application for the invention rather than for the utility model.

As far as a device is concerned, we should point out that one can obtain a utility model patent easier than an invention patent, since the utility model is not required to have the inventive step (unlike the invention). Thus, in order to get a utility model patent, one could take two previously known devices and merely combine them, also proving novelty and industrial applicability. An inventive step is not required in this case.

However, the extent of legal protection of an invention is somewhat broader than the one of a utility model because the assessment of infringement of IP rights includes equivalents doctrine.

When choosing between a utility model and an invention patent, one should also consider the risk of patent invalidation. Since inventions have to satisfy the additional patentability requirement of an inventive step (obviousness), possible invalidation actions can have additional grounds – lack of an inventive step. Therefore, in some cases, utility model patents can be considered as potentially more stable.