Questions around utility models
Here you will find a selection of frequently asked questions on utility model protection
What are the differences between a utility model and a patent?
Technical inventions can be protected by both patents and utility models. Please note that technical, chemical and biological processes can be patented but not protected as utility models.
Furthermore, the term of protection of utility models is different to that of patents. Utility model protection is initially available for three years. It may be extended to a maximum of ten years. A patent can provide protection for up to twenty years.
In case of utility models, substantive requirements for protection such as novelty and inventiveness are initially not examined. An examination is carried out only later within the framework of cancellation or infringement proceedings. This makes utility models easier, faster and cheaper than patents. However, there is a greater risk for utility models to be challenged and cancelled.
What documents do I need to submit when applying for a utility model?
Please use the official form (Antrag auf Eintragung eines Gebrauchsmusters - G 6003) when applying for a utility model.
It must be accompanied by a description presenting the known state of the art on the one hand and the layout and advantages of the invention on the other hand. The description can be supplemented by one or multiple technical drawings.
You must also submit claims. The contents of the claims determine the scope of protection of your utility model. Therefore, the wording of the claims is particularly important. The claims must contain the features relevant to the invention that are intended to be protected.
The formal requirements for the application documents are stipulated by the Utility Model Ordinance (Gebrauchsmusterverordnung).
The “Information for Utility Model Applicants” leaflet might also be useful. The documents are available here.
How much does a utility model cost?
An application fee of 40 euros for a utility model application must be paid within three months from filing the application. Otherwise, the application will be deemed to be withdrawn. The application fee is as low as 30 euros for e-filing. Maintenance fees are due after three, six and eight years. If the respective maintenance fee is not paid at all, not paid in due time or not paid in full, the utility model will lapse.
Information about fees and fee payment are available here.
Do I need a lawyer or patent attorney to file an application?
Applicants can apply for IP rights themselves. It is at the applicant's discretion to decide whether to seek the help of a lawyer or patent attorney. However, applicants who do not have their residence in Germany must be represented in respect of the application by a lawyer or patent attorney authorised to do so.
What is the ‘description’ of the invention?
The description is an essential element of the utility model application. Please describe the following in your text:
- the state of the art
- the problem underlying the invention
- the solution to the problem (the invention as such)
- the advantages of this solution
Please note that the invention must be fully described already in the documents submitted at the date of filing. If you subsequently submit further technical features, the application could be refused due to inadmissible extension. Another legal consequence could be the deferment of the date of filing to the date of the subsequently filed document being received.
What are ‘claims’?
The claims determine the scope of protection of the utility model. The description and the drawings serve only to illustrate the claims. Therefore, the wording of the claims is very important.
The claims must contain the technical features that are to be protected. Information about the invention’s purpose or advantages does not meet this requirement.
For tips on how to draft the claims, please refer to the “Information for Utility Model Applicants” leaflet.
What is ‘state of the art’?
The state of the art is the yardstick of the 'novelty’ and ‘inventive step’ requirements for protection. The state of the art comprises all written publications and any public use that adversely affect novelty of the invention.
The definition of ‘state of the art’ in utility model law is stricter than in patent law. ‘Absolute’ novelty does not apply. This is due to the shorter term of protection of utility models. Compared to patent law, there are the following differences: the state of the art, for example, only comprises written descriptions. Oral descriptions are not covered. Public use is prejudicial as to novelty only if it has taken place in Germany. Furthermore, the applicant is granted a grace period of six months. This means that the applicant may make their invention available to the public up to six months prior to filing the application without precluding utility model protection.
Under what circumstances can I request legal aid?
You can request legal aid for a utility model application if your financial circumstances are difficult. In that case, a lawyer or patent attorney can be assigned to you as your representative. For more information on this issue, please refer to the leaflet on legal aid (Merkblatt über Verfahrenskostenhilfe vor dem Deutschen Patent- und Markenamt – (in German).
Has the DPMA received payment of the maintenance fee for my utility model and has the payment been processed?
For utility models which are still in force, the next due date is displayed in DPMAregister in the list of master data in the Due date line. In some cases, computation of the next fee due may be delayed. In such cases, the line "Due date" will temporarily not be displayed.
If the fee amount has been paid in full and correctly for the file number, the payment is usually processed within the next 35 days and – if admissible – the next due date will be indicated in the corresponding line.
As of 1 June 2011, the DPMA stopped issuing receipts, but you can use the updated data of your Register entry as confirmation of payment.
Information on the amount of the fees payable is available here.
Do you have any further questions?
Please call our Customer Care and Services (+49 089 2195-1000) - or send us an e-mail to email@example.com.
Last updated: 8 May 2020