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Utility Models

Q. What is a utility model?


A utility model is a monopoly right giving — as compensation for disclosure of a device — exclusive use of the device for a certain time to the device’s creator (Utility Model Law Article 3) or to a party to which the creator has transferred its utility model rights (Utility Model Law Article 11(2), including an employer to which the creator has transferred such rights (Utility Model Law Article 11(3). Japan’s Utility Model Law aims “to encourage devices by promoting the protection and the utilization of devices relating to the shape or structure of an article or combination of articles, and thereby to contribute to the development of industry” (Utility Model Law Article 1). The Utility Model Law provides that utility model rights may be granted to anyone who creates a "device," which is defined as “the creation of technical ideas utilizing the laws of nature (Utility Model Law Article 2(1). A utility model registration can be granted for a device that relates to the shape or structure of an article or combination of articles, that is industrially applicable (Utility Model Law Article 3(1). Because a utility model application is not subject to a substantive examination, utility model rights can generally be obtained and applied much more quickly than can patent rights. An idea of or for a method may not be granted utility model rights. Also, a utility model invention need not be “a highly advanced creation” as is required for a patent invention. 


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