Patents and utility models

Patents and utility models

Inventions (device, method or substance) are protected by patents or utility models.

A utility model has less stringent requirements the for inventive step than an invention while it has only half of the duration.

An invention is protectable if it is novel, has an inventive step and is industrially exploitable.

The proprietor of a patent or utility model is entitled to prohibit all others from using the invention for its entire validity period.

A patent can be valid for up to 20 years. The validity of a patent can be renewed every year by paying the required state fee. The maximum duration of a utility model is 10 years. After the first period of four years, it can initially be renewed for another four years, and for further two years thereafter.

The legal protection of inventions is territorial, which means that an invention has to be protected in all countries where it is intended to be used.

When a patent or utility model expires, the owner of the patent or utility model loses the exclusive right to the invention, i.e. the invention becomes available for use by all.


What is protected by a patent or utility model?

A patent or utility model is used to protect inventions of a technical nature: new products or services that have an inventive aspect and industrial applicability.

How can you get protection for your invention?

If protection is sought in one European country only, you a patent or, in some countries, also a utility model can be registered on a national level. To obtain protection for an invention a patent application or a utility model application must be filed with the patent office of the country concerned. The application must contain the following key documents:

  • an application for a patent or utility model,
  • a patent application or a patent application for a utility model, one or more patent claims or utility model claims,
  • an abstract of the nature of the invention in both local and English languages;
  • drawing(s), if applicable.

Who is entitled to apply for protection of an invention?

The right to apply for a patent or utility model registration belongs to the author of the invention and his/her heirs or assignees. If the invention was created in the performance of a contractual or employment obligation, the right to apply for a patent or utility model registration belongs to the author or another person under the clauses of the contract or employment agreement.

What is the difference between patent protection and utility model protection?

The rights conferred by a patent and a utility model certificate on their proprietors are the same. The procedure for applying for the registration of a utility model is faster and cheaper, but the period of protection is half as long and the legal certainty is lower.

How long does the examination last and will my invention be protected during the examination?

On average, the patent application procedure lasts 24-36 months, but from the date of filing of the patent application until the date of publication of the patent grant notification, the invention will benefit from provisional protection. There is no substantive examination during the registration procedure of a utility model and it takes 6-12 months to obtain a registration certificate.

Is it possible to apply for protection for an already published invention?

If an applicant discloses an invention before filing a patent or utility model application, the invention may no longer be eligible for patent protection due to lack of novelty. Therefore, disclosure of the invention should be avoided until the patent application or utility model application has been filed. However, if the applicant has already disclosed the invention, he/she has only 12 months to file a national application in Estonia and the application must contain the specific request that information previously disclosed by the applicant not be taken into account in the assessment of novelty. It should be noted, however, that not all countries allow for such a “grace period”.