China’s Evolving Utility Model Patent Law: Impact on U.S. Filers

Utility Model Patents

Exploring China’s Growing Influence in Patent Applications

Acknowledging China’s expanding significance in the worldwide IP scene, the data by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) shows a steady rise in patent applications in China by U.S.-based candidates. Notably, from 2016 to 2017, the number of regular patent applications increased by about 14%. However, during the same period, U.S. utility patent applications filed by U.S.-based candidates witnessed a slight decline of about 0.5%.

Shifts in Patent Preference

U.S.-based applicants exhibit a clear interest in acquiring patent protection in China, gravitating towards China’s equivalent of a U.S. utility patent, known as the “invention” patent. However, China’s active utility model system also entices applicants. Lately, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) has been upgrading its utility model system, potentially leading to stronger utility model rights for those who navigate the evolving examination process adeptly.

Understanding Chinese Utility Models

With approximately 95% of the world’s utility model applications filed in China, alterations to China’s utility model evaluation significantly impact global innovation-based IP. An utility model patent in China, akin to a standard utility patent, boasts a shorter term of 10 years, quicker application pendency (typically 6–9 months), and relatively lower patentability requirements than conventional invention patents.

Recent Changes in Evaluation

CNIPA’s discreet adjustments in utility model examination, starting from 2017, involved heightened scrutiny during the formal assessment stage. These alterations, although not officially outlined in assessment rules, reflect a shift in focus by examiners, particularly in seeking potential vulnerabilities like novelty challenges. Consequently, applications deemed susceptible face substantive rejections during the formal review, escalating costs and delays for applicants.

Implications and Forward Outlook

The aim behind these changes seems to enhance the perceived quality of utility model patents, reducing the issuance of low-quality patents. However, the impact extends beyond local applicants, affecting all seeking protection in China. To mitigate the risk of substantive rejections, applicants must adapt their strategies, considering broader yet precise claims and utilizing dependent claims to preemptively address the evolving examination criteria.


In the realm of Chinese patent law, the landscape continually evolves, with the CNIPA rigorously evaluating applications. This scrutiny necessitates an anticipatory approach from applicants, aligning with the evolving evaluation criteria. The attention to detail and adherence to these nuances not only ensure compliance but also enhance the perceived quality of utility model patents in China. Such measures hold significant potential for patentees, especially for U.S.-based candidates leveraging the distinct advantages inherent in Chinese utility model patents. Embracing these evolving practices not only secures compliance but also enhances the competitive edge in the dynamic patent landscape.

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