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German utility model alternative to national patent

Besides obtaining a German patent, the utility model – Gebrauchsmuster – makes it possible to protect the same invention without this being regarded as (impermissible) double protection.

Unlike patent applications, applications relating to utility models do not usually involve any technical or substantive examination. As a result, the turnaround time for an application of this nature is quite a bit shorter too. Provided that the formal requirements applicable are met, registration in the register of utility models at the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) can be achieved within just six to eight weeks, which makes it possible to achieve protection for an invention very quickly indeed.

A few key features
Utility models can be used for a wide range of purposes, but are not granted for everything. For instance, working methods are excluded, as are inventions that relate to biological material. However, a utility model can be used to protect pharmaceutical products. The term of protection for a utility model is 10 years from the application date; an extension is not possible. The applicant will be required to pay maintenance fees in the fourth, sixth and eighth years of the utility model protection. An application for a utility model will result in a priority period of 12 months and the priority right can be used to obtain a utility model or a patent. If a patent is applied for after a utility model and it is not advisable for the subject of the utility model to be disclosed at that stage, disclosure may be postponed for up to 15 months after the application or priority date.

Split off
A utility model may be split off from a German patent application (a national, European or international patent application in which Germany has been designated) within 10 years of the application date. An application for this purpose will be possible up to two months after the date on which the patent application has been processed. The above results in an effective tool that can be used to take action against potential infringers, if the patent is still at the examination stage. This is because the utility model can result in an entitlement to compensation in the form of damages and an injunction against third parties in the event of infringement. Reason enough therefore to consider the utility model a little more often as an additional way to protect an invention.