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What is a utility model?

The TRIPS Agreement does not provide for utility models, but they are recognized in the Paris Convention and are utilized in about 57 countries including China, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea. In some of these countries, such as Germany, Japan and South Korea, utility models are protected by specialized legislation. However, in China, utility models are defined as a type of patent under their Patent Law. Utility models are designed to protect small innovations that serve utilitarian purposes but are not inventive enough to be protected by patents. While both utility models and patents protect technical solutions, patents protect products and methods of making the products, whereas utility models only protect products in some countries.

For instance, if someone invents a cup with a handle to solve the problem of cups without handles, it may not be inventive enough to qualify for patent protection. However, it may still be eligible for protection as a utility model.


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