Although the conditions needed are similar, Utility Models have less strict requirements, making them a great way to protect inventions of a lower inventive rank than patents. In practice, Utility Models protection is used for innovations that may not meet the patentability criteria; also known as "petty or small patents" or "innovation patents."
Most countries that offer protection by means of Utility Models do not examine the background of applications prior to registration. This means that the registration process is usually considerably simpler and faster.
The term of protection for a Utility Model is shorter than for patents and varies from country to country. In Spain the duration of a Utility Model is 10 years compared to 20 years for a Patent.
The simplicity of the process and the shorter protection duration makes Utility Models cheaper to obtain and maintain.
The Spanish law provides that "Inventions will be protected as Utility Models provided that -being new and involving an inventive activity- they consist on giving configuration, structure or constitution to an object, out of which a practically observable advantage may derive for its use or manufacture".
Utility Models are considered particularly suited for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) that carry out "minor" improvements to existing products or adapt these products, mainly for mechanical innovations.