A utility model is similar to a patent in regards to the fact that it is also an intellectual property right used to protect inventions. The way that it is different to a patent is that it usually expires more quickly and also tends to take less time to get granted which is often due to the fact that they usually have weaker patentability requirements. Alternative terms such as "petty patent", "innovation patent", "minor patent" and "small patent" are also used to refer to a utility model.
Utility models are more commonly filed for by a company for "incremental inventions" which are updates to previously patented inventions. Since they are applied for after the patent, if they had the same expiration period as a patent they then would expire significantly after the patent so applying for a utility model instead will mean that they will expire before the patent or not long after. Because of the weaker patentability requirements, it is also easier to get a utility model where the counter of doing this is that the protection that utility models provide is not as strong as that for patents.
The utility model is used in various different countries where the type of protection it affords, its maximum term and various other issues regarding it vary from country to country.