04 October 2005

Utility Models

I mentioned yesterday the debate that has been started on utility models in IPR Talk. I thought it might be useful to indicate some of the sources of information on the topic on the internet.

A pretty good starting point is the "Utility Models" page on the Europa website. It links to the current proposal for a utility model directive dated 12 July 1999. The proposal appears to have been kicked into the long grass for the time following a consultation that appears to have generated a lot of negative vibes from this country. This negativity may have resulted from a previous consultation almost 20 years ago. Despite a recommendation in favour, the government of the day rejected the idea in favour of introducing unregistered design right.

There are at least two countries with similar legal systems that have utility models. Ireland has what are called "short term patents" which are granted with less rigorous examination and for lower fees and can apparently be enforced by proceedings in the lower courts. Australia has "innovation patents" which are apparently granted without any examination at all though an infringement action cannot be launched until after examination by the patent office has been requested. The idea of an innovation patent appears to have been mooted by ACIP (the Australian equivalent of IPAC). There is a lot of good material which could profitably inform any revived UK debate.

I should add that most of the rest of Europe seems to have something like utility models. We are one of a very small number of countries without them.

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