Engineers seeking design protection could soon find an easier way of safeguarding their ideas than the usual patent application process.
A draft directive drawn up by the European Commission aims to bring so-called ‘second tier protection’ to the UK, via a continental European legal device called utility model protection.
Utility models, not yet available in the UK, are about half the cost of a traditional patent. They are less stringently researched, and last for six to 10 years instead of the patent’s 20 years.
‘These are of particular relevance to small manufacturers, and especially to mechanical engineering,’ said Clifford Lees, convenor of a Chartered Institute of Patent Agents working party which is examining the EU proposals.
The utility model protection directive will be discussed by the European Parliament at the end of the year.