Utility model means any form, configuration or disposition of element of some appliance, utensil, tool, electrical and electronic circuitry, instrument, handicraft mechanism or other object or any part of the same allowing a better or different functioning, use, or manufacture of the subject matter or that gives some utility, advantage, environmental benefit, saving or technical effect not available in Kenya before and includes micro-organisms or other self-replicable material, products of genetic resources, herbal as well as nutritional formulations which give new effects.
Utility models are an exclusive right granted for an invention that allows the right holder to prevent others from commercially using the protected innovation, without his authorization in the geographical area for which the utility model was granted for a limited period of time. In its basic definition, it may vary from one country (where such protection is available) to another, a utility model is similar to an apartment.
Infact; utility models are sometimes referred to as ‘petty patents’ or “innovation patents”. The concept being that there are certain innovations that don’t need to be entirely new, it may be new in Kenya but not necessarily elsewhere, the newness need not be absolute and there need not be an inventive step, it must be useful.
Kenya has both patents and utility models, Kenya Ceramic Jiko (KCJ) from the metal jiko upon realization of the need to conserve energy; the idea was that metal was making energy disappear but ceramic would conserve energy.
In general, compared with patents, the requirements for utility models are less restrictive, both substantively and formally
The Act also establishes the Industrial Property Tribunal to deal with cases of infringement. Section 109 of the Act also criminalises infringement on others patents, registered utility models or industrial designs.
Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI)- This is the competent authority for accepting, examining, and granting utility model applications
The provisions of the Act relating to patents (except those expressly excluded by Section 81(1) and section 82) shall apply mutatis mutandis to utility models certificates or applications therefore as the case may be.
According to Section 82(1), an invention qualifies for a utility model certificate if it’s new and industrially applicable. A utility model certificate expires at the end of tenth year after the date of the grant and is not renewable any time before the grant or refusal of a patent on payment of the prescribed fee (and vice versa) in accordance with section 83 and 84 of the Act.
It’s also noteworthy that the creator of an industrial design or his successors in title has the exclusive right to sell or cause to be sold for commercial or industrial purposes the goods in which the design is incorporated.
The Act of registration confers upon its registered owner the right to preclude third parties from perming any of the following in Kenya;
An invention qualifies for a utility model certificate if it is new and industrially applicable.. Section 82 specifically pertains to examination, stating:
“Section 22, 24, 43, 44 and 60 shall not apply in the case of applications for utility model certificates.”7 Section 22 of the IPA states that an invention is patentable if it is new, involves an inventive step, is industrially applicable or is a new use, while section 24 provides a definition of inventive step.
These sections “shall not apply” to applications for UMCs because the requirement of inventive step conflicts with section 82(1), which provides that “[a]n invention qualifies for a utility model certificate if it is new and industrially applicable.”
At any time before the grant or refusal of a patent an applicant for a patent may, upon payment of the prescribed fees, convert his application into an application for a utility model certificate, which shall be accorded the filing date of the initial application.
At any time before the grant or refusal of a utility model certificate, an applicant for a utility model certificate may, upon payment of the prescribed fees, convert his application into a patent application, which will be accorded the filing date of the initial application.
An application may not be converted more than once in either case.
The provisions for patents apply with respect to Utility models as though they referred to utility model certificates instead of to patents.
The subject matter for utility model is Part XII of the Industrial Property Act, 2001. Section 82(1) of the Act states that an invention qualifies for a utility model if it is new and industrially applicable. Like patent utility model invention is fundamental in utility model.
The Act has not specified which types of inventions are not considered as subject matter for utility model. However, this distinction is necessary so that the inventor knows where his invention falls.
Most countries with utility models laws require that the innovation be new. However, many utility model offices do not conduct substantives examination and merely grant the utility model after checking at utility models applications comply with formalities.
Some countries exclude particular subject matters from utility models protection. For example methods, plants and animals are normally barred from utility model protection.
Inventions (except processes) with new technical features may be eligible for utility model protection. Utility model protection is granted for technical inventions which are new, involve an inventive step and are susceptible of industrial application
Section 82(1) requires that utility model must be new. This means that it must not be in the public domain before through any written description or publication.
Nevertheless, it is not express whether oral disclosures would destroy novelty utility model, nor does public use outside Kenya. Description or use within six months preceding the date relevant for the priority of the application is not taken into consideration if it is based on the conception of the applicant or their predecessor in title (period of grace).
The subject matter of a utility model does not involve an inventive step if, having regard to the state of the art, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art. This is to make utility model invention friendly and affordable to the local inventors.
Utility model can be obvious to any ordinary skilled person in the art; it need not be more than a handicraft skill to get a grant. Patents require an inventive step from the inventor.
The invention is considered susceptible of industrial application if its subject matter can be made or used in any kind of industry, including agriculture.
For each invention, a separate application must be filed; in the case of lack of unity, several applications are required. Where two or more inventions are so linked as to form a single general inventive concept, they may be claimed in a single application.
Prior to registration, the utility model section examines only if a technical invention having unity has been submitted and if the requirements in accordance (absolute requirements for protection) are met.
The requirements set forth in (relative requirements) are examined only in the case of litigation (nullity or infringement proceedings). Consequently, a utility model will be registered even in the absence of one or several of the requirements however, no IP right arises, but only a fictitious title from which no rights may be derived at any time.
This insecurity about whether the relative requirements are met can be avoided ‒ if it has not been removed by the applicants’ own searches ‒ by means of a search carried out on request, which will help the applicant to assess the state of the art thus ascertained.
Most countries that protect utility models do not have laws that protect invention models that involve methods and processes. These mostly include the following;
The following in particular cannot be protected as utility models:
NB: From 1994 until 2014, patent and UMC applications in Kenya were subjected to formalities and substantive examinations. However, in 2014, KIPI ceased substantive examinations of utility model certificate applications.
From a review of ownership and processing times for granted utility model applications, it is noted that most are almost exclusively filed by local entities; they do not appear to be operating to incentivise substantial amounts of innovation by businesses in Kenya; and cessation of substantive examination of applications has resulted in the grant of many applications that had stalled during such examination.