Areas of Activity
Like patents, utility models protect new inventions which involve an inventive step and are capable of industrial application.
Although utility models belong to the field of inventions, they protect inventions which involve a lesser degree of inventive step than patents. They are what case law commonly refers to as “minor inventions”.
The exceptions to protection indicated for patents also apply to utility models.
Thus, the following inventions cannot be protected by a utility model:
a) inventions the commercial working of which would be contrary to public order, public health or morality;
b) inventions relating to biological matter;
c) inventions relating to chemical or pharmaceutical substances and processes.
Whereas patents have a considerably long duration (20 years), the maximum term for a utility model is 10 years counted from the filing date.
A utility model application (like a patent application) can be filed:
a) as a Portuguese national application, at the Portuguese Industrial Property Office;
b) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (international application), in which case the application must be filed at the Portuguese Industrial Property Office, the European Patent Office or the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The major difference in relation to patents is the fact that the administrative procedure for utility models is simpler and thus more expedited than the procedure for patents.
The applicant can even start by requesting protection as a utility model and subsequently, at any time before the respective publication, change the type of protection to a patent.
The inventor must decide which type of protection is more appropriate for his invention, as follows:
a) as a patent, if a more long-lasting and stronger protection is desired, bearing in mind that the administrative procedure is more stringent;
b) as a utility model, if a lower level of protection is sufficient, with a shorter duration but a quicker administrative procedure.