Industrial property

frequently asked questions

What is industrial property?

Industrial property regulates the rights to certain inventions or immaterial creations in the world of industry. It provides the opportunity to obtain exclusive rights to protected creations, which are upheld as genuine property rights. These rights allow their holder to decide who can use a creation and when.

Industrial property rights are granted by the Spanish Patents and Trademarks Office, which is the competent state organisation in charge of protecting these rights on a national level.

Which are the categories protected by industrial property?

In Spain there are various different types of industrial property rights depending on the creations to be protected.

The main categories of creation are:

  • Technical innovations: in this case industrial property rights protect the technical aspect of an invention rather than its external form. Technical innovations are protected by patents and utility models, or petty patents. In granting these titles, the administrative body accepts the authority of the inventor over his or her creation and grants the inventor the exclusive rights to exploit their creation.
  • Design innovations: here the external form of a product is protected rather than its technical aspect. Depending on whether these designs are in two or three dimensions, they are known respectively as industrial designs or industrial models.
  • Innovations relating to corporate identity (distinguishing signs). Brands identify a product or a service and trading names identify individuals and organisations.

Industrial property also provides legal protection to semiconductor product topographies, protecting both the layout-design of the layers and elements that make up a complete circuit and their three-dimensional distribution and interconnections: in other words, everything that makes up the “topography” of the semiconductor product.

Which are the categories not protected by industrial property?

Industrial property protection does not cover creations which reflect the personality of their creator but are not mass-produced or produced on an industrial level: so-called ‘unique creations’.

Industrial property does not, furthermore, cover mathematical methods, scientific theories or procedures relating to the cloning or genetic modification of human beings, although these last two procedures are, in fact, protected in the case of plants.

Industrial property regulations

Industrial property is regulated on a state, community and international level. Community and international regulations normally aim to standardise the specific legislation of different countries and states.

In Spain, industrial property is protected by the following regulations:

Protection of inventions:

  • Law 24/2015 of 24 July: this law covers invention patents, utility models and complementary certificates protecting medications and plant products.

Please check the SPTO (OEPM) site for further information about such legislation

Protection of brands and other distinguishing signs

  • Law 17/2001 of 7 December (Brands): This law protects graphic and/or word combinations, enabling similar products and services on the market to distinguish themselves from one another.

Please check the SPTO (OEPM) site for further information about such legislation 

Protection of industrial designs (industrial drawings and models)

  • Law 20/2003 of 7 July (Legal Protection of Industrial Design): This law protects the external appearance of products which are created and reproduced on an industrial level

Please check the SPTO (OEPM) site for further information about such legislation 

What is a patent?

A patent is a title granted by a state administrative body which acknowledges that the holder of the patent has authority over a creation, monopoly over its use and the sole right to its exploitation. This gives the holder the exclusive right to the exploitation of that creation: that is, the exclusive right to produce, sell or otherwise use the creation within the specific geographical limits of that state.

This monopoly belongs exclusively to the individual lodging the patent application, whether this is the direct creator or simply the petitioner (this may be a person, company or institution). The monopoly lasts for a specific time period that varies depending on the regulations that each state has in place. In Spain, as in the majority of countries, the patent lasts for a non-renewable period of twenty years which are counted from the date on which the patent application was lodged. It takes effect from the date on which the patent is publicly granted.

Please visit the patents section of the WIPO for further information

Requirements for a patent to be granted

In order to gain a patent, a technical invention must comply with a series of conditions: in summary, the invention must be useful, novel, involve an element of inventiveness and be considered a patentable material.

What is a utility model?

A utility model is a title granted by a state administrative body. In the same style as a patent, it acknowledges the petitioner’s authority over their invention, their monopoly over its usage and their exclusive right to exploit it.

Although patents and utility models are very similar, utility models are generally used to protect creations which are less inventive in their nature than those protected by patents, and for smaller creations that may not meet all of the aforementioned criteria for being granted a patent. Utility models are often referred to as “petty patents”.

Utility models provide a shorter period of protection than patents and the duration of this period will vary from one country to another. In Spain, the protection provided by a utility model lasts for 10 years, whereas patent protection lasts for 20 years.

Requirements for utility model to be granted

The requirements that must be met in order to gain a utility model are less strict than those regulating patents. However, in order to gain a utility model creations must still be useful, practical and innovative by nature.

Where can I find further information about patents and utility models?

Records of patents are normally available to the public and accessible free of charge. Records of patents deal with applications, claims and concessions of patents and utility models.

The following databases are particularly useful:

  • Invenes: this is the Spanish and Spanish language database of inventions which integrates Interpat and Latipat.
    • Interpat:  it contains bibliographical information about Royal Privileges from 1826 to 1878, patent and utility model documentation processed under the Statute of Industrial Property since 1929 and under the new Patents Law of 20 March 1986, in addition to European patents and patents requested through the PCT which apply to Spain and which produce a document written in Spanish. It includes images published in the BOPI [the Spanish Official Industrial Property Gazette] from 1988 onwards, in addition to complete documents.
    • Latipat: it contains information about patents from 18 countries in Latin America.
  • Espacenet: It provides access to the complete texts of the collection of European patents, to the patent applications of the international patent office (WIPO) and to the worldwide collection, which provides information about patents from over 90 countries.
  • UPSTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office)

What are design innovations?

Industrial design refers to a type of form-based innovation which applies to the appearance of a product in itself, or to its decorative features. Industrial design protects the external form of a creation rather than its technical aspect. These designs may take the form of:

  • industrial designs, illustrations or other two-dimensional drawings
  • industrial models, forms or other three-dimensional object designs

Industrial design protection provides the petitioner with the exclusive rights to the external form of the complete product or a part of the same.

Once the protection has been registered, this is valid for five years counted from the date on which the application was lodged. The protection period is renewable for a series of five-year periods up to a maximum of 25 years.

Requirements for protecting design innovations

In order to be protected, designs must be novel and original: they must be new and of a unique character.

Where can I find further information about industrial design innovations?

The Register of Designs is available to the public and can be accessed free of charge. Each country has databases which list protected designs. Some of the most significant databases among these include:

  • DISEÑOS: Included in INVENES, this database contains bibliographical information about industrial designs, models and drawings from 1966 onwards and includes images published in the BOPI [the Spanish Official Industrial Property Gazette]. There are over 150,000 references. Searches can be made on bibliographic information relating to industrial designs, models and drawings. The search results include images of industrial designs and models and the outlines and images of industrial drawings..
  • E-SEARCH PLUS:  it provides comprehensive information about brands, designs and models, holders, representatives and official gazettes. E-SEARCH PLUS enables users to run rapid and efficient searches in the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) database.
  • DESIGN VIEW: it is a centralised access point which enables users to view information about registered designs and models regulated by any of the participating National Offices. One single presentation format is used for all of the different offices.

The search tool for designs and models is based on data from the records of the participating offices: WIPO and EUIPO.

  • HAGUE EXPRESS: It contains bibliographical information and –in terms of international records regulated wholly or partly by the 1999 Act and/or the 1960 The Hague Act– industrial models, drawings and reproductions linked to international records that have been inscribed in the International Register and published in the International Designs Bulletin from no. 1/1999 onwards. International records that have expired do not figure in the database.

For more information, please check the section of the OEPM site that covers industrial designs.

What mechanisms are in place to protect corporate identity?

Protection of corporate identity gives holders the exclusive rights to use identifying symbols in commerce.

  • Brand: A brand is a distinguishing symbol or sign which identifies a product or service on the market. A brand may only be used by its creator. A brand may be protected for ten years counted from the date on which the application was lodged, and can be renewed indefinitely for a series of ten-year periods. A series of fees must be paid in order to renew this protection.

Depending on their geographical protection, brands may be national, international, European and so on.

  • Trading name: This is the name that identifies a company which trades commercially. A trading name is used to identify the company and to distinguish it from other companies conducting the same or similar economic activities.

Protection lasts for 10 years counted from the date on which the application was lodged. It can be renewed indefinitely but a series of fees must be paid in order to do this.

Where can I find information about brands?

The Brand Register is available to the public and is free of charge.

  • National Brand Locator:this provides a list of national brands, trading names, shop signs and international brands which apply to Spain, whether these were filed, registered or refused. It provides users with the option of searching for EU brands by accessing the link provided to the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office).
  • TMview: this tool provides access to current information about brands held in the national offices of more than 60 countries.

For more information, please check the section dedicated to distinctive signs on the OEPM site


If you require advice or assistance, please contact your library.