UTILITY MODELS – GENERAL INFORMATION
WHAT IS A UTILITY MODEL
Utility Models are registered, which are new, industrially applicable and have an inventive step. The objects under Art. 6, para. 2 and 4 of the Act on Patents and Registration of Utility Models are not considered Utility Models, insofar as legal protection is sought for themselves as such.
The protection of new inventions, registered as Utility Models, can and have to stimulate the inventiveness, help to develop the creative talents. These Industrial Property levers are targeted at such objects which do not meet all patentability criteria, such as the inventions, but they can also be protected with lower registerability requirements and shorter term of protection compared to the classic patents for inventions. The conclusion is that the protection of Utility Models is usually meant for less complex technical and/or innovative solutions, as well as for inventions that have a shorter commercial life and realization. The protection of inventions as Utility Models, can include objects from all fields of the technology - apparatus, machines, units, systems or devices, components or substances.
As a result of the described peculiarities in the civil turnover and in the circles of the professional organizations, the Utility Models have received the name "the small patents". The low price and the faster procedure for registration of a Utility Model are among its main advantages. For these and other reasons, recently the Utility Models have been more preferred by applicants and manufacturers for protection of their inventions. Another alternative and popular way of a protection in the technological aspect of the invention, may be by registration as an Industrial Design.
REQUIREMENTS FOR REGISTRATION OF A UTILITY MODEL
The national patent offices (local industrial property offices) in each country determine the order and provide protection of inventions through their registration as Utility Models. The requirements for registrability of a Utility Model are normatively regulated, and they are largely similar to those for the issuance of a patent for an invention. These are: novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability. It should be noted, that the criteria for the inventive step for the Utility Models, however, are significantly lower than those in the classical procedure for patenting an invention. In practice, in most patent offices, this requirement is not subject to check due to lack of substantive expertise.
RIGHTS CONFERRED BY THE REGISTRATION OF A UTILITY MODEL
The registration of a Utility Model grants exclusive rights to its holder according to the Act on Patents and Registration of Utility Models. The holder of the right may prohibit the use of the Utility Model by third parties in trade turover without his permission. This right is for a period of up to 10 years, which starts from the priority date of the submission of the application for a Utility Model.
Furthermore, it is the right of the holder to oppose (prevent) third parties to use (production, sale, import, export, etc.) the object of the Utility Model registered by him, without his explicit consent (permission in the form of a license). This is an important condition that has to be taken into consideration by all those involved in the market realization of the specific Utility Model.
Sometimes it is possible a Utility Model or a patent for an invention, held by different persons to contain and/or complement a utility model already registered by another person. In these cases it is necessary to obtain a license (permission) for the use of the inventions of the other holders in order to be able to be carried out a market realization of a protected invention through a utility model, and the opposite hypothesis is possible. The scope of the protection (as in the case of inventions) is determined by the patent claims of the registered Utility Model.
WHAT IS THE TERM OF PROTECTION OF THE USEFUL MODEL
The protection of the Utility Models is for a certain period of time, which varies from country to country. The standard generally accepted duration of the registration is from 7 to 10 years from the priority date of submission of the application for registration of a utility model. This is practically possible only if the maintenance fees for the registration of the utility model are paid annually and on time. To use the maximum term of protection of the utility model there should not have been requested invalidity or cancellation of the registration. After the expiration of the term of protection, which in our country is 10 years, the registration of the Utility Model is terminated, after which any person (natural or legal) is free to use the object of the Utility Model in commercial and civil turnover, thus not infringing anyone's rights over the Utility Model.
TERRITORIAL EFFECT OF THE REGISTERED UTILITY MODEL
In addition to time, the effect of the registered Utility Model has territorial limitations. This practically means that the invention has protection only on the territory of the countries in which it has received protection through its registration as a Utility Model. Therefore, if no Utility Model registration is received in a particular country, your invention will not be protected in that country. This circumstance allows any third party who has interest to use (manufacture, import, export or sale) the object of the Utility Model on the territory of this country.
MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A UTILITY MODEL AND A PATENT FOR INVENTION
It is known that the criteria for patentability (registerability) of the Utility Models are the same as those for the patents for inventions. However, there are some differences in the procedure for registration of the Utility Model and in its term of protection. The registration of inventions through a Utility Model differs from that of the patents for inventions in three main points.
- The requirements for an inventive step (the necessary inventive step) is less than the required for the classic patents for inventions.
- The term of protection conferred by a utility model is shorter than that of the traditional patents for inventions. In different countries, it is between 7-10 years from the priority date of the filing of the application for the utility model.
- The fees due for the registration and maintenance of the Utility Models are lower than those for patents for inventions. In addition, the Utility Model registration procedure is faster. This is due to the fact that the expertise on the merits of the criteria for registerability (novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability) is not considered in detail in most patent departments and offices. The procedure for registration of the Utility Models usually takes several months before the issuance of the certificate for registration by the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria.
ACQUIRING PROTECTION BY REGISTRATION OF A UTILITY MODEL
The protection of the new technical solutions through utility models is possible only by national order before the Bulgarian Patent Office. Protection of Utility Models is not provided abroad through regulated international or European procedures. Therefore, the protection abroad of a object of Industrial Property by means of a Utility Model is possible only by filing an application for a national registration at the relevant local patent departments (offices) in any country of interest and which provides such protection. Furthermore, the protection by a Utility Model can be obtained from an earlier PCT application and/or a Bulgarian patent for an invention, as well as from a European patent for an invention, provided the mandatory conditions are met.