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This article is written by Purvi Khandelwal who is pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from LawSikho.

Introduction

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on 27th May 2020 launched WIPO PROOF, a new online business service, which provides inviolable evidence of existence at a certain point in time of any digital file including data sets in any format. On 19th January, 2021, the WIPO PROOF was made available in 10 languages to grant easy access to the whole world. The WIPO PROOF is aimed to protect the various outputs derived during the process of Organization’s development which may be inconsiderate at that given point of time, though may determine the future success of the Organization. Such protection is granted irrespective of the fact that the protected files or data will or will not turn into a protective Intellectual Property Right in future. 

Understanding the working of WIPO PROOF

WIPO PROOF is an easy-to-use online platform for the innovators and creators enabling them to protect their intellectual assets. It accolades the existing intellectual property (IP) systems of an Organization or an individual by prompting verifiable actions to safeguard the many outputs of their work on the journey from concept to development to commercialization. WIPO PROOF not only generates evidence by saving the date of protection but makes sure that the evidence is tamper-proof as well. 

The working of WIPO PROOF is based upon the age old European electronic Identification Authentication and trust Services (eIDAS) standards which depicts the intention of WIPO in providing trustworthy services wherein WIPO PROOF does not read the contents of the uploaded file and not even stores a copy of it. The use of WIPO PROOF is unrestricted and thus does not limit its usage to a few hands only.  

Intention of WIPO PROOF 

The WIPO PROOF is certified by the ETSI and ISO as it meets the relevant policy, security and technical standards established by both the certifying bodies. WIPO intends to protect the intellectual assets in the form of a digital file by generating a time and date specific digital fingerprint token proving that the digital file existed at a specific point of time. 

According to the prominent “Idea Expression Theory”, the Copyright Law does not protect the idea and only the expression of an idea is protected. The WIPO PROOF is an initiative to protect the ideas of the people wherein even if the idea is not expressed or able to create a right through creation of Intellectual Property, the idea is secured so as to be used in any form in the future. The disputes of Intellectual Property mainly rely on the evidence of use and the WIPO PROOF token acts as a digital evidence for claiming the priority over a certain file, document containing the data related to the disputed IP.

Protection and services

The WIPO PROOF can safeguard Creative works and Designs including audio-visual works, textile designs, software codes, industrial design sketches; Trade Secrets and Know-How including recipes, formulas, methods, theorems, business plans; Research and Data being lab notes, research results or other derivatives and other Digital Assets being documents, agreements, contracts or anything related to the same, in any form or format. The web application allows up to 20 files to be selected but eventually one token is generated for each unit file; each token costs CHF 20 (approximately $20). Bundles can be purchased, which somewhat reduces the unit price (eg, 100 tokens for CHF 1,800), and custom bundles can be negotiated.  

The WIPO PROOF token provides indefinite validity, and free storage; such a token can also be certified and signed by WIPO on payment of additional fees and also can be protected in Bundles to reduce the cost of protection. The online verification of WIPO PROOF services are provided instantly and free of cost. There is also an option of integrating WIPO PROOF API within the applications if sought by the requestor. 

Generating a WIPO PROOF token

The WIPO PROOF tokens are generated using the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology, which has been recognized as the most reliable digital certification method. PKI is based on digital certificates that verify the identity of the machines and/or users that ultimately proves the integrity of the transaction, through encryption and decryption and can certify almost anything. The WIPO PROOF registration requires the user to generate a WIPO PROOF token in order to validate their asset and the assets are protected for a period of five years (renewable on request) from the date of generation of such token. The steps to generate a WIPO PROOF token are as follows:

Step 1: Select your file

After you locate through google to the WIPO website, click get started and you are taken to https://wipoproof.wipo.int/wdts/create/uploaddocument.xhtml wherein you are asked to select a file you want to protect and further you are asked about the ownership of the file wherein the natural person who owns the file, the organization or a legal representative can register their work. Following this selection, the name and category of the work is asked for and you are also allowed to add notes if you wish for the protection of your work.

Step 2: Fee calculation

The nominal fee of CHF 20 (INR 1640) is charged for grant of protection token. The said fee is calculated on the basis of the number of files you seek to protect. 

Step 3: Login

The next step is to login to the WIPO. If you already have an account, you are taken to the payment page, and if you don’t, you can simply register yourself at WIPO.

Step 4: Payment

Online payment option is provided through WIPO, which can also be saved and paid later or if paid immediately leads to the completion of the procedure and the final step is processed thereafter.

Step 5: Token(s) confirmed

The WIPO PROOF’s secure and one-way algorithm interacts locally with the requestor’s browser and creates a unique digital fingerprint of the file. The token(s), once generated is the proof of the date and time when your intellectual asset has been protected. 

Advantages of WIPO PROOF

Evidence: The WIPO PROOF token generates a digital evidence to be used at any point of time wherein the date of creation of the Intellectual Property is disputed. The certificate acts as the verifiable and indefinitely valid evidence that the intellectual asset existed at a specific point in time.

Confidentiality: As mentioned earlier, the WIPO PROOF does not read the contents of the uploaded file or create a copy of it. The WIPO PROOF just generates the time specific digital fingerprint for the uploaded content and has no further use of the content uploaded.

Cost effective: Uploading a single file costs as less as INR 1,640/- and also by making the generation of token so, the attorney costs are also excluded, thereby making the registration quite pocket friendly. 

Trusted and secure: Certified by the top global certifying bodies, WIPO PROOF provides benefits from the highest standard of digital encryption technology backed by WIPO. WIPO PROOF does not even access the files and is, therefore, more secure than the similar French e- Soleau service. Initial files cannot be hacked on WIPO’s database. 

Worldwide coverage: Available in 10 languages, and valid in almost all countries, the WIPO PROOF is accessible by just about every person and thus, has a worldwide coverage of protection. WIPO is a brand, its products are awaited in the IP industry and thus within the month of launching WIPO PROOF, it was able to attract quite hefty user registrations from across the world. 

Limitations of WIPO PROOF

Content alteration: If the data in the original file, on which the token was granted, is modified even in the tiniest manner, the file would not be verifiable as with the other cryptographic solutions.

Multilateral agreements: WIPO is a foreign entity to the EU. While it would, in principle, be possible for WIPO to enter into a bilateral agreement with the EU to be granted the “qualified” status, WIPO does not subject itself to such bilateral arrangements. Being an international organization and a specialized agency of the UN, it operates on a multilateral framework. 

Dispute resolution: Though the WIPO PROOF tokens will be admitted in courts, token owners may not enjoy a favorable evidential presumption. As no trusted link is established between the tokens and the data owners, the latter may have to prove ownership of the original data during a dispute, as with many other cryptographic solutions.

No exclusive rights: The WIPO PROOF tokens does not provide any kind of exclusive rights like other IP like trademark, copyright, patents, designs, or Geographical Indications. 

Not an only solution: The WIPO PROOF, even though it is a product of WIPO and easily accessible, is not an only solution for the problem. WIPO has already made clear that WIPO PROOF does not generate any formal IP Rights. Also, the credibility of these tokens are yet to be tested in the Courts. 

Conclusion

WIPO PROOF comes as a much-awaited stride in the IP world. Launched amidst the Covid phase, it is welcomed and highly appreciated by the artists, creators, software developers and researchers from all over the world as the lockdown phase has led to generation of many big and small ideas, out of which some had been put to use instantly, while others have been reserved for some time in future. WIPO PROOF has allowed those ideas the protection from specific time.

However, protection of ideas may also at some point disregard the intention of IP laws which intend to use intellectual property for the public benefit. At one end, the idea secured but not put to use and the ability to claim the ownership of those ideas might harm such intention of IP lawmakers, whereas at the other hand protection of ideas at an early stage can come as a motivation towards research and development and better standards of IP creation. However, just introduced, the WIPO PROOF is yet to be perused by the Court of Laws, who will put an end to the emerging controversies over the use or misuse of the WIPO PROOF tokens.

References

  1. https://www.iam-media.com/copyright/wipo-proof-summary-piece
  2. https://www.wipo.int/wipoproof/en/news/2020/news_0004.html
  3. https://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2020/article_0029.html
  4. https://www.wipo.int/wipoproof/en/news/2021/news_0001.html
  5. https://www.venafi.com/education-center/pki/how-does-pki-work
  6. https://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2020/article_0029.html 

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