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.