Philip ter Burg
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Increased importance of protecting intellectual property
The value of companies nowadays is not so much their production capabilities, but their product knowledge, design and the goodwill represented by their brands. While on the one hand cars are increasingly becoming a generic product, on the other hand companies such as Mercedes Benz and Audi have built their brands into household names by continuously investing in innovation and distinctive design. Some brand names represent so much goodwill that they are licensed to third parties to sell industry-exclusive products, such as Porsche sunglasses and Pall Mall jeans. By licensing, well-known soccer clubs, for example, earn more from merchandising than from soccer.
With the development of IT, the development of intellectual property has also accelerated. The use of software products protected by copyright is ubiquitous and anyone with a computer can create products, logos, designs or models without too much effort or big investments. The flip side of this development is that it is also becoming increasingly easy to imitate or simply copy products. Therefore, to maintain the value of your business, it is essential that you identify where that value lies and adequately protect your intellectual property.
Intellectual property rights
Intellectual property law, often referred to as IP, provides protection for all "products of the mind" and includes literary and artistic property as well as industrial property.
Broadly speaking, the following intellectual properties can be distinguished:
For most companies, their main intellectual property consists of patents, trademarks, designs, copyrights, and trade and domain names.
The importance of other intellectual property rights is limited to specific industries such as, for example, chip developers and breeders, but that does not make protection of intellectual property rights in their industries less important.
Effective legal protection
Most intellectual property rights belong to the inventor or creator of an elaborate idea or concept by operation of law. If the work was created by an employee within the scope of his/her employment, the rights in principle belong to the employer. Another person may not use your invention without your permission, and you can sue whoever misuses your intellectual property rights. However, for the most effective protection of your intellectual property, it is preferable to register your intellectual property as much as possible. In some cases, such as patents on technical inventions and trademarks, the work must first be registered before the intellectual property belongs to the creator at all.
IP law is no longer a purely national matter, nor are national governments free in their national IP policies. Many intellectual property developments have a European or even broader international dimension. For global trade, the international legal protection of intellectual property is indispensable. Internationally, there are binding treaties including the Berne Convention, other treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS Agreement for short, from the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Copyright, trademark and design law are almost completely harmonized in Europe. For patents, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and the European Patent Convention play an important role. In addition to the European patent, the Unitary Patent is also expected to come into force on June 1, 2023. The Unitary Patent provides protection for 17 countries of the European Union with a single registration. Trademark and design law is strictly speaking no longer governed by Dutch law, but exclusively by the Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property, also known as the BCIP, and the European trademark and design regulations
Since inadequate protection of intellectual property is a barrier to international trade, the WTO makes adequate protection of intellectual property a requirement for accession of new members, as was the case, for example, with China's accession in 2001.
Much attention is also given to the protection of intellectual property in the European context. At the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), Community trademarks and Community designs can be registered that offer protection throughout the European Union. Also for copyright, the laws of different member states have been aligned through a European directive. Finally, the Enforcement Directive has greatly facilitated the enforcement of intellectual property rights within the European Union.
Article series: this is how you protect your intellectual property
For virtually every company, intellectual property such as inventions, trademarks, designs and copyrights represent significant value. To protect that value, it is important that you properly protect the intellectual property developed by your company both nationally and internationally to prevent its misuse.
The article series, "Here's How to Protect Your Intellectual Property," aims to give you insight into key intellectual property rights, how to protect them nationally and internationally, and how to enforce them. A new installment in the series below will appear monthly on this website.
This is how you protect your intellectual property:
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