German Utility Model
Technical inventions can also be protected by German utility models in Germany. All technical inventions can be protected by a utility model as they can be by a patent. This also includes technical products, apparatus and substances, as long as they are novel and based on an inventive step.
Eligible for patent protection but explicitly excluded from utility model protection are:
- processes (manufacturing and working processes).
Utility models are unexamined IP rights. During the registration procedure, there is no examination as to novelty, inventive step und industrial application. For this reason, utility model protection can be obtained more easily, faster and at lower cost than patent protection.
The maximum protection term of a German utility model is 10 years.
A German utility model application can be directly filed with the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) with or without claiming priority.
Alternatively, a PCT application can enter Germany as utility model within 30 months of the priority date of the PCT application.
2. Branching Off of a German Utility model
The German utility model can be branched off ("Abzweigung") from a pending international, European or German patent application. The derived German utility model has the same application date and priority date as the patent application. The time limit for the branching off is two months after the ending of the application proceeding (application is withdrawn, deemed as withdrawn or rejected, or granted) or the ending of the opposition proceeding. The German patent application is continued after the branching off. If the 30 month time limit for the PCT application to enter Germany is missed, a German utility model can be branched off within two months of the end of 30th month.
A German utility model branch off is a powerful meassure to stop infringement activities during grant proceedings in Germany. Furthermore, a German utility model branch off is an alternative to a costly divisional application.
3. Grace period
The German Utility Model enjoys a grace period of six months for own publication and prior usage. This means that, if you have disclosed your invention, you can still file a utility model application within six months after your invention has been disclosed or used by you (i.e. the applicant or its legal predecessor) and your utility model will be a valid protection right. Additionally, for novelty, only use in Germany is relevant.
4. Substantive Examination
The DPMA only carries out formal examination for the utility model application.
There is no substantive examination for German utility model application. Therefore, the German utility model has the advantage of low costs and fast registration.
The applicant or proprietor of the utility model or any third party can file a search request in order to evaluate the novelty and inventive step of the utility model. The search result does not affect the registration of the utility model.
After formal examination, the DPMA will issue a registration certificate. The text of utility model will be published six weeks after the registration.
5. Cancellation proceeding
Anyone can file a request for cancellation of a registered utility model with the DPMA if
1) the subject matter of the utility model is not protectable,
2) the subject matter of the utility model has been protected by an earlier utility model of patent, or
3) the subject matter of the utility model exceeds beyond the content of the application originally filed.
6. Renewal fee
Renewal fees need to be paid after three, six and eight years to keep the IP right alive.