- Viivi Ruusila
A utility model, like a patent, is a right of to prevent others from using the invention. The utility model can be obtained for a new technical solution that can be used industrially. In Finland, the utility model can be obtained for a product or a device. However, the utility model cannot be used to protect a method or a use. The utility model is particularly suitable for protection of simple device and product inventions or small improvements to an existing device or product.
For a new and clearly different invention
Finnish Patent and Registration Office (Patentti- ja rekisterihallitus, PRH), which acts as the patent authority in Finland, does not assess the novelty and inventive step of an invention of a utility model application. Accordingly, it is advisable to become acquainted with the prior art in order to ensure the novelty of the invention. The requirement for a level of inventive step is lower for an invention protected by the utility model than for an invention protected by a patent. When a patentable invention is required to have a “substantial” difference from the prior art, only a “clear” difference is required for the utility model.
Finnish Patent and Registration Office only performs a registrability check on the utility model application, and thus it is possible to obtain protection for the invention very quickly with the utility model. The average processing time for the utility model at Finnish Patent and Registration Office is three months. Thus, protection is obtained faster than with a patent application, which has an average processing time at of 2.5 years. It is also possible to postpone the registration of the utility model upon request for up to 15 months from the filing of the application, if the applicant wishes for the invention not to be published earlier.
Protection for 10 years
In Finland, the registration fee for the utility model application covers the first four years. Thereafter, the utility model can be renewed first for four years (years 5-8) and then for two years (years 9-10) by paying a renewal fee. It is thus possible to maintain the utility model in force for ten years, while the term of protection conferred by a patent is twenty years.
In Finland, it is possible to convert a patent application into a utility model application. Priority may also be claimed from the utility model application in the same way as from the patent application, with a priority period of 12 months.
Invalidation of utility model
Anyone may at any time attempt to invalidate the utility model by filing an invalidity claim against it. The free-form invalidity claim and its appendices must be made in writing in Finnish or Swedish. The invalidity claim must be justified and submitted to Finnish Patent and Registration Office. The invalidity claim is subjected to a fee. Finnish Patent and Registration Office makes a decision on the basis of the material submitted in the invalidation claim and a response submitted by the owner of the utility model. As a result of the decision, the utility model may be kept in force in an unchanged form, may be declared partially invalid, or declared completely invalid. The decision can be appealed to the Market Court.
Utility model in other countries
A utility model registered in Finland protects the invention only in Finland. The utility model system is not very common, but in Denmark, Germany, Spain, Estonia, Russia, Japan and China, for example, it is possible to obtain similarly utility model protection for an invention. In countries where there is no utility model, it is possible to apply for a patent.