When you approach your Chinese associate for opinion about how to achieve for a quick protection in China, the answer will always be - Utility Model. It is cheap and fast, compared to the Invention Patent. Of course, your product should be able to be protected by a Utility Model, based on Article 2.3, Chinese Patent Law “ "Utility Model" means any new technical solution relating to the shape, the structure, or their combination, of a product, which is fit for practical use”.
The advantage of a Utility Model
Since there is no substantive examination for a Utility Model, a Utility Model could be granted in 6-9 months from the filing date. The applicant could get a very quick protection for his product.
The disadvantage of a Utility Model
Like always, every coin has two sides. The Utility Model has the disadvantage that: a) the protection term of a Utility Model patent is only 10 years, compared to 20 years of an Invention patent; and b) since there is no substantive examination, there is no chance to amend the claims according to the prior art searched by the examiner, which makes the claims more distinguishable from the prior art and makes the patent right more stable.
Therefore, the answer to “how to make your Utility Model ever more powerful” is targeted at these two disadvantages.
For the short term of the Utility Model
If your product is in a technical field which develops, changes, and upgrades very fast, the Utility Model is perfect for your product. 10 years term is quite enough for protecting your product until the next generation of the product come out.
Under the condition that you are not sure whether your product is in this kind of field, you could file one Utility Model application and one Invention Patent application in the same day. Then you could enjoy fast protection of Utility Model and the 20 years protection term of the Invention Patent for the same time. Practically, amendment to the claims of the Invention or abandon of the Utility Model should be made when the Invention Patent application is about to be granted.
For stability of the Utility Model
There is no official search for your Utility Model, you could do a throughout search yourself when drafting the Utility Model application. Assume the patent attorney you entrust is also an examiner for this application, and entrust your patent attorney to do a novelty-checking search before the drafting of the application is finished. According to Chinese patent practice, when someone is invalidating your Utility Model, only two different prior art documents could be combined to question the inventiveness of one claim. It means that if you construct your claims well based on the search you made, the claims may be hard to be invalidated.
The famous example
The most famous example for such a Utility Model is ZL201420522729.0, the famous “Selfie Stick”. It has endured 18 attempts at invalidation, however, it is still there. The numbers of litigations it has already won based on this Utility Model is 1,995.
Do a thorough search when drafting the Utility Model, it will make your Utility Model even more powerful.