"Inventions are protected as utility models if they are new, involve an inventive step and are susceptible of industrial application" (Translation of § 1 (1) German GebrMG)

Utility models (German: "Gebrauchsmuster") serve to protect technical developments. With a utility model application, the inventor or the assignee may claim protection for a technical teaching. The patent attorney then describes the invention, its principles, its functionality and various embodiments as well as the differences with respect to the prior art in the utility model application.

In contrast to a utility patent application, a utility model application directly results in the registration of the utility model after merely a formal examination, irrespective of the prior art. In other words, it is possible that an apparatus can be registered as a utility model even though it has been in the public domain for a long time. However, the validity of the registered utility model remains unverified until challenged by somebody else filing a request for its invalidity.

Many requirements of a utility model are shared with those of a patent application. However, some key differences exist between a regular patent and a utility model. For instance, for a utility model verbal descriptions and uses outside of Germany are immaterial to the criteria of novelty and inventive step. In addition, there is a so called grace period of six months before the filing date or the priority date of the utility model application during which descriptions and uses based on the development of the inventor are ignored. Significantly, the maximum period of protection for a utility model lasts only 10 years (versus 20 years for a patent) effective from the filing date. Finally, it is not possible to protect methods by a utility model.

The (valid) registered utility model comes with the same rights with respect to a third party as a granted patent.

RHP provides legal advise to clients in all matters of prosecution, maintenance, defense, attack and infringement of German Utility Models.


Conditions of protection:  Technical invention, novelty, inventive step, industrial applicability

Exceptions: methods, plant or animal varieties, discoveries, scientific theories, mathematical methods, aesthetic creations, business methods, software as such, biotechnologic inventions

Applicant: Inventor or assignee

Possible countries: In certain countries only

For Germany: German "Gebrauchsmuster"

Priority deadline:  1 year

Grace period:
 In Germany: 6 months

Registration: After formal examination

Legal remedies:  Invalidity procedure

Protection:  Against any use, as for example producing, importing, owning, offering and placing on the market

Maximum lifetime:  10 years from the filing date