These FAQ’s pertain to IP in general and South Africa in particular.

Seeking IP information on a specific country in Africa or the Caribbean? Find out more here.

Utility Models

An alternative to patent protection.

A utility model is a specific type of intellectual property right, often described as being somewhere between a patent (which protects the underlying inventive concept) and a registered design (which protects the appearance of a product). 

Available in various countries, it provides a monopoly right for your invention that is generally more affordable, easier to register, and has a shorter lifespan than a patent, while offering greater scope of protection than a registered design. 

Also known as a ‘petty patent’, ‘minor patent’, or ‘innovative patent’, the utility model was designed primarily to respond to the needs of innovators. 

Some of our clients – including existing patent-holders, start-ups, creatives, and designers – find that, for certain types of inventions, a utility model is a useful alternative to patent and design protection in many African countries.

It allows you to prevent the unauthorised commercial use of your invention, for a fixed period of time. It is often used for mechanical innovations and will work well for you if you’d like to obtain some form of protection but are concerned that your invention may not meet the more stringent inventiveness requirement of a patent.

Utility models may be obtained either by direct national filing or through one of the two regional organisations in Africa, OAPI and ARIPO. The requirements and procedures for obtaining protection via a utility model, as well as the duration of that protection, vary from country to country.

FAQ's

What is a utility model?
A utility model is a specific type of intellectual property right, often described as being somewhere between a patent (which protects the underlying inventive concept) and a registered design (which protects the appearance of a product).

Available in various countries, it provides a monopoly right for your invention that is generally more affordable, easier to register, and has a shorter lifespan than a patent, while offering greater scope of protection than a registered design.

Also known as a ‘petty patent’, ‘minor patent’, or ‘innovative patent’, the utility model was designed primarily to respond to the needs of innovators.

Why file an application for a utility model?

Obtaining protection via a utility model can be less expensive than going the patent route. The requirements for grant of a utility model are usually less stringent as there is often no or a reduced inventive step requirement.

Further, utility models are typically not subjected to the same examination process as a patent application, which reduces the time to grant as well as the prosecution costs in getting the application to grant.

What are the disadvantages of a utility model?

Compared to a patent, the scope of protection is reduced and the term is shorter.

When should I make use of a utility model?
Utility models can be effective in protecting inventions where there is a risk that the invention may not meet the higher inventiveness requirement of a patent.

What are my options if a utility model is not available as a means of protection?

Some African countries, such as South Africa, do not make provision for utility models. However, it may make provision for the filing of a functional design registration. This is akin to a utility model in that it protects the features of the design that are necessitated by the function that the article is to perform.

Meet the team

Spoor and Fisher Team - Lodewyk Cilliers

Lodewyk Cilliers

Partner, Chairperson of Executive Committee

Spoor and Fisher Team - Dirk Hanekom

Dirk Hanekom

Partner

Spoor and Fisher Team - Craig Kahn

Craig Kahn

Partner

Spoor and Fisher Team - Margaret Le Galle

Margaret Le Galle

Director

Spoor and Fisher Team - John McKnight

Prof. John McKnight

Partner

Spoor and Fisher Team - Hugh Moubray

Hugh Moubray

Partner

Spoor and Fisher Team - Danie Pienaar

Danie Pienaar

Partner

Spoor and Fisher Team - Herman van Schalkwyk

Herman van Schalkwyk

Partner

Spoor and Fisher Team - Heather Donald

Heather Donald

Consultant

Spoor and Fisher Team - Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon

Patent Formalities and Prosecutions

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