Portugal: El Modelo de Utilidad y la protección de innovaciones incrementales

Last Updated: 18 May 2017
Article by Jorge Machado

Se entiende por innovación incremental aquella que genera pequeñas mejoras en productos, líneas de productos o en procesos, pequeños avances en beneficios que perciben los consumidores, pero que no modifican la forma expresiva o el modo en que se consume o utiliza un producto

Estas mejoras carecen, muchas veces, según los requisitos de patentabilidad, del "efecto técnico" inesperado para un experto en el área necesario para que se concluya que éstas podrán ser protegidas por una Patente de Invención. Es este pormenor, que marca la diferencia, el que hace que se pueda pensar en el Modelo de Utilidad como forma de protección de aquellas mejoras. La legislación nacional es clara en cuanto al cumplimiento de este requisito, no obliga a que la solución tenga el referido "efecto técnico" inesperado sino que basta con que la misma conlleve una ventaja práctica o técnica, estando así, frente a un concepto de actividad inventiva menos exigente que el aplicado en el ámbito de las patentes.

Pero no acaban aquí las ventajas de este tipo de modalidad de protección de las invenciones. Un procedimiento administrativo más rápido es también otra de las características interesantes de los Modelos de Utilidad. De hecho, podemos tener la garantía de concesión del derecho en un periodo de cerca de 9 meses – sustancialmente menos cuando comparamos el procedimiento con el de las Patentes de Invención, no siendo difícil de entender que, con estas características, el Modelo de Utilidad pueda ser una opción bastante válida. Si tenemos en cuenta que buena parte de las innovaciones de hoy en día son muchas veces incrementales, sobre todo las creadas por PYMES – o incluso por inventores individuales –, que son mayoría en el tejido empresarial de buena parte de los países, debemos entonces, entender por qué razón los Modelos de Utilidad están en minoría en cuanto a cifras, sobre todo cuando los comparamos con las solicitudes de pedidos de Patentes de Invención – en Portugal, las solicitudes de Modelo de Utilidad comprenden menos del 10% de las solicitudes de Patentes de Invención (datos del 2015) –, lo que, en un país donde las PYMES son mayoría, puede dar que pensar.

¿Qué motivos llevan a este tipo de situación? ¿Falta de conocimiento acerca de las ventajas de esta modalidad? ¿Costes? ¿"Enforcement"? ¿La dificultad para entender, a veces, la tenue frontera entre una "ventaja técnica" y un "efecto técnico" inesperado? Tal vez sea la suma de todas estas cuestiones lo que hace que los solicitantes opten frecuentemente por la Patente de Invención. En este punto se vuelve fundamental el trabajo del Agente Oficial de la Propiedad, pues a él le compete, por sus funciones, estudiar el contexto en el que surge la solicitud para la protección de la invención.

En un primer análisis se debe entender cuál es el ámbito de protección adecuado al mercado al que se pretende dirigir por aquella invención. Una de las ventajas habituales asociadas a los Modelos de Utilidad es el hecho de que este tipo de derechos no están disponibles en una serie de países, aunque, en aquellos países donde la modalidad existe – a excepción de EEUU – son también países donde la mayoría de los solicitantes tienen intereses comerciales, por lo que esta cuestión se puede superar con facilidad. Otra cuestión relevante es saber si, de hecho, estamos frente a una invención incremental y si la misma respeta los requisitos habituales de pantentabilidad, es decir, la novedad, la actividad inventiva y la aplicación industrial. Esto es relevante porque no siempre el buen conocimiento del mercado por parte del inventor es suficiente para asegurar que aquellos requisitos se cumplen.

Se recomienda investigar el Estado de la Técnica para aclarar esas posibles lagunas. En efecto, este ejercicio podrá desde luego ayudar a aclarar los méritos de la tecnología desarrollada bajo el punto de vista del cumplimiento del requisito de la actividad inventiva, ya sea desde la perspectiva de la inventiva (presencia del tal efecto inesperado) o de la ventaja técnica a ella asociada, revelándose de esta manera, un buen instrumento para aclarar este importante requisito. Por último, la cuestión de los costes. Uno de los beneficios de los Modelos de Utilidad es el de garantizar la concesión de derecho por un coste más bajo cuando se compara con los habituales pedidos de Patente de Invención. Este supuesto debe ser debidamente evaluado, pues los costes podrán variar sustancialmente de jurisdicción en jurisdicción, no sólo en el acto de la solicitud pero también en el mantenimiento del derecho. Estos factores deben estar en sincronía con el periodo de vida útil previsto para el producto o el proceso.

Digamos éstas son las premisas fundamentales para llegar a la conclusión de que realmente el Modelo de Utilidad es la opción más adecuada. Esta modalidad puede, de hecho, cumplir los propósitos reales y las necesidades de las empresas, en materia de protección de los resultados de su innovación, en especial, la incremental. Sin embargo, es crucial el análisis de todas las variables en juego antes de tomar una decisión.

Sólo de esta manera los Modelos de Utilidad servirán los propósitos para los que se crearon y podrán ser un subterfugio táctico usado habitualmente, siempre que la protección por la vía de Patente de Invención se revele infructífera, pues cuando este escenario se presenta, significa que los recursos técnicos y financieros ya han sido malgastados.


Clarke, Modet & Co - PORTUGAL

Portugal Offices

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