German software patent 101: What is a “utility model”?

von Bastian Best

In addition to patents, there is a utility model in Germany, which is codified in the Utility Model Act (“Gebrauchsmustergesetz”, GebrMG).

In contrast to patents, which are substantively examined before grant, German utility models are registered after an examination for formal criteria only.

Since a utility model is not substantially examined prior to registration, its validity can directly be challenged as a defence argument in utility model infringement procedures. This is different from nationally granted German patents or German parts of a granted European patent, wherein the validity can exclusively be challenged in a separate nullification procedure.

With respect to patents, Germany applies a first-to-file principle so that generally any disclosure of an invention before the priority date of an application is novelty-destroying ...

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