Utility patents are one of the three kinds of patents present in the USA. A utility patent may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter or any new or useful improvement. In other words, a utility patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which allows the right holder to prevent others from commercially using the protected invention without his authorization for a limited period of time. These are also known as ‘petty patents’ or ‘innovation patents’ or ‘minor patents’ or ‘small patents’.
Salient features of the utility patent are as follows:
1. Utility patents confer exclusive protection rights for the product and not process.
2. Novelty is a norm but the standards of novelty are different in different jurisdiction for Utility patents.
3. The standards of non-obviousness and inventive step are much lower and differ according to the jurisdictional area.
4. Utility patents are more appropriate for incremental invention.
5. In most of the jurisdictions only a preliminary procedural examination is required for the grant of utility patents. There is no substantive examination for utility patent grant.
6. The rights conferred for the utility patents are similar to those granted by patent laws but have a shorter term.
7. The span of protection usually varies from 6-15 years; contrary to patents in which the term of protection is 20 years.
8. Utility Patents are cheaper to maintain and obtain.
9. The duration of registration of utility patents is less compared to patents since in most of the jurisdictions the applications for utility patents are not examined prior to registration.
When do you need to apply for the Utility Patents?
Utility Patents can be advised in following conditions:
i) For inventions with minor improvements;
ii) If there is a requirement of faster registration;
iii) For invention with low inventiveness;
iv) For the inventions which are incremental in nature;
v) For the inventions which are tangible in nature;
vi) When the budget allocated is less and patenting cost is more.
Countries offering Utility Patent Protection:
Not all countries offer the utility patent protection. India is one of them. In India the provision related to utility patent grant is not present. Some of the countries offering utility patent protection are Brazil, China, Greece, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, Portugal, UAE, Poland, Peru etc.
Utility Patent protection in India:
India does not offer protection under Utility Patents, therefore the Indian companies and startups which seek utility patent protection can apply in the above mentioned countries only. India too requires utility patent protection provision because of its numerous benefits mentioned above. Apart from those utility patent protection also benefits Small and Medium Enterprise Businesses since they lack funds for conducting tests & trials and paying hefty patent fees.
An estimate shows that there are more than 48 million SME’s in India providing employment to billions of people. For such SMEs utility patent protection can prove to be a boon, since they fail to protect their inventions and hence suffer losses in terms of business growth. Utility patent protection proves to be an effective safeguard for protection of inventions of MSMEs. This can further boost the business growth for MSMEs and would further act as an encouragement to the MSMEs under the ‘MAKE IN INDIA’ initiative of Government of India.