The Utility Model Act protects the shape or structure of a device. Typically, Utility Model applications are reserved for inventions that are simpler than those covered by the Patent Act and as such, the application process is also streamlined. However, the 10 year protection granted is only half as long as the duration of a patent right.
Unlike a patent application, an application for a utility model right may be granted without an examination of the device. However, without an examination of the device, the effectiveness of the utility model right is questionable. Before seeking to enforce a utility model right against a competitor, the right holder must seek a “Report of Utility Model Technical Opinion” from the Japan Patent Office. This report will give an expert opinion about such aspects as the novelty and inventiveness of the device covered by the utility model right.
If you have any questions about patent law in Japan, please contact our office for a legal consultation.