The two latest people to express doubts about the utility
model patent come from India, where
practitioners have previously been enthusiastic.
In interviews ahead of Managing IP’s India
IP and Innovation Forum in New Delhi,
Tabrez Ahmad of Microsoft and
Munish Sudan of Tata Steel both dismiss the idea of
introducing utility model protection, saying that they think
India would be better served by improving underlying IP
infrastructure and reducing pendency.
Sudan says that one of the biggest problems in India is the
lack of good search tools compared to more mature IP offices
such as the USPTO and the EPO. With patent searches being as
monumentally difficult as they already are, adding a bevy of
unexamined patents into the system "may make the system more of
a mess". He also points out that the shortcomings in the patent
search system can make commercialisation a challenge, because
it can be difficult to conduct freedom-to-operate searches.
Adding unexamined utility models of dubious quality will not
make that situation any better.
Ahmad makes a similar comment: that with the lack of
infrastructure at the patent office, "utility model patents
will just put even more pressure on an already crumbling
India is of course not the only rising economy touting
innovation as the way forward and considering utility models as
an intermediate step. China is arguably the country that
started the backlash. Soon after
the country drew
headlines for becoming the world’s largest
patent filer, some observers began pointing to the fact that
most of those patents are actually utility models and
questioned whether they are small steps toward innovation as
The EU Chamber of Commerce in China released a
report last August asserting that China’s IP
policies, including those promoting utility model filings, put
a damper on true innovation. Oliver Lutze, the chair of the
Chamber’s IP working group, explained that foreign
companies looking to do business in China are often dismayed by
the patent landscape dominated by utility models.
He told Managing IP: "For example, a company might look at
China and see 50 utility model patents that can potentially
hinder them. While you can invalidate a few low-quality
patents, for cost reasons it is impossible to attack 50."
What do you think? Do utility model patents help promote
smaller improvements that lead to big breakthroughs, or do they
act as roadblocks to real innovation?
Munish Sudan and Tabrez Ahmad will be speaking at the India
IP and Innovation Forum on March 7 in New Delhi.