A utility model is a type of industrial property right that, like patents, protects inventions, but with less creative value or less radical innovation. In general, utility models apply to inventions with less technical complexity, for which reason they are also known as “petty patents”, “innovation patents”, or “short-term patents”.

The procedure for obtaining protection through a utility model is usually shorter and more straightforward than the one for obtaining a patent.

In general, utility models differ from patents in the following aspects:

  • There are some differences in the requirements for obtaining a utility model compared to those for patent applications.

The law states that a utility model is patentable when it is novel and has industrial application. Utility models are exempt from requiring the level of inventiveness necessary to obtain a patent.

However, although a “level of inventiveness” is not required, an utility model will not be granted if it has only has minor or secondary differences to previous inventions or utility models, and does not provide any discernible utility that sets it apart from these.

In practice, protection for utility models is usually sought for innovations that mainly provide improvements, as a primary criterion.

  • The period of validity for protection for utility models is shorter than for patents and varies from country to country.

In Chile the duration period y is 10 years from the filing date of the application.

  • As regards the registration procedure in Chile, the same steps are taken as when applying for a patent.
  • It is more economical to obtain and maintain utility models. Acquisition and maintenance fees are lower than those for patents.
  • In some countries, as is the case of Chile, utility model protection can be obtained solely for certain technological areas and is applied only to products and not processes.

In general terms, a utility model is considered to be: instruments, devices, tools, appliances, and objects or parts of objects from whose shape or structure a claim can be made, both in its external appearance as well as its function, as long as some sort of utility is created. That is to say, that it brings some sort of previously non-existent benefit, advantage, or technical effect to the area of use for which it is destined.

Applying for a utility model is more appropriate than a patent if protection is sought for a product with a short lifecycle. This includes tools particularly adapted to small and medium-sized companies that contain “minor” improvements compared to existing products or that adapt said products.

Once granted, every utility model should visibly display the words “Modelo de Utilidad” or the Spanish initials “M.U.”, followed by the registration number. These markings can be placed on the packaging, as long as the product is presented in a sealed fashion to the consumer, in a way that requires destroying the packaging in order to access the product.

One advantage of protecting an invention as a utility model is that protection can be sought through the PCT, which entails applying, through a single application, for protection in several countries.