A German utility model is a technical property right which provides protection for technical developments in much the same way as a patent. Originally, the utility model was intended as a "small patent" to provide quick and cost-effective protection of inventions. However, it can be used strategically to protect innovations in addition to or as an alternative to a patent and to defend a competitive position.

The term of a utility model is a maximum of ten years.

Utility models can be used to protect products, but not processes. It is also possible to protect certain medical uses known as a pharmaceutical utility model.

The utility model can be obtained quickly and inexpensively. After a formal examination, the patent office registers it without substantive examination for protectability. The utility model is usually registered after just a few weeks. Thereafter, any third party is prohibited from using a product according to the utility model without the proprietor’s consent. An infringement of this is called a utility model infringement (see Utility Model Infringement).

As a rule, only in such a case it is examined whether the utility model actually meets the requirements for protectability. This examination is conducted either in cancellation proceedings before the patent office or in legal action before an ordinary court. As long as the protectability has not been officially or legally examined, it is often difficult for third parties to assess to which extent the utility model is actually legally valid. This can be a significant competitive advantage for the proprietor of the utility model.