What Is a Utility Model?

August 8, 2011
What Is a Utility Model?

In Mexico, there are three figures that may be protected in the field of inventions: (i) patents; (ii) utility models(modelos de utilidad); and (iii) industrial designs, including industrial drawings and models. In this note, we willdiscuss the registration of utility models, which entails the issuance of an exclusive right to an invention,allowing the owner to prevent non-authorized commercial use of the protected invention by a third party for alimited time period. According to its basic definition, which may vary according to the country providing theprotection, a utility model is similar to a patent. Utility models are sometimes called “petty patents” or“innovation patents.” The Mexican Intellectual Property Law (Ley de la Propiedad Industrial) defines a utilitymodel as the “objects, utensils, apparatuses or tools that display a different function with respect to their parts orutility as a result of a modification to their design, configuration, structure or form.” The main differencesbetween a utility model and a patent are the following:1. The requirements to obtain a utility model are less strict than those to obtain a patent. While the“novelty” requirements must always be met, the requirement for “inventive activity” is much more laxor does not exist for utility models. In practice, protection by means of a utility model is used forminor innovations that may not satisfy the patentability criteria;2. The term of protection for utility models is shorter than that of patents and varies by country(generally varies between seven to ten years), with Mexico having a term of ten years;3. It is more economical to obtain and maintain utility models than patents. In some countries, protectionby means of utility models may only be obtained in certain fields of technology and only applies toproducts and not processes.Since this figure is not recognized in all countries, it is worth determining whether the country in which the itemwill be used in recognizes the utility model concept before attempting to register such.

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