Safeguarding Digital Assets with WIPO Proof

Background

We are becoming ever more reliant on technology to store and transfer our intellectual property assets. As we do so, it becomes ever more difficult to prove when documents, or revisions of documents, were created and held by a party.

In 2020 in particular, we have seen a huge reduction in face to face meetings, where confidential information may be more easily controlled by bringing single-copy paper documents, or making a presentation from your own laptop rather than transferring the files to the host’s servers or laptops. Now that more meetings are conducted online, it is much harder to retain control of these confidential documents. For example, screen shares and video conference meetings can easily be recorded without the presenter’s knowledge. Also, if digital files are transferred electronically, it is very difficult to control their copying and reproduction, and of course manipulation of the time and date stamps in the document.

Example situation

Filing applications for IP rights before disclosure is always recommended, if possible. However, often clients are faced with the problem of needing to disclose their confidential information prior to filing, typically for funding or other commercial reasons. Of course, disclosure in such cases should only be under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) prepared by a legal professional. However, enforcement of NDAs can be difficult if a substantial level of proof is not held by the enforcing party. Often, it comes down to what was disclosed and who can prove they were in possession of that information prior to the meeting. Independently verified and certified documents, confirming who was in possession of the document, exactly what the document contained and at what point in time, would provide the highest standard of proof in such cases.  This would be particularly effective if a universally recognised body were responsible for providing high standard verifications.

Other situations where proof of the development of ideas and documents has been important in the past has included employees stealing confidential information and after criminal data hacks.

WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is one of the 15 specialised agencies of the United Nations. WIPO provides global intellectual property information, resources and services, including the administrative framework for international (PCT) patent applications. WIPO is therefore extremely well established and well placed to provide secure authentication of confidential documents.

WIPO Proof

WIPO Proof is a new digital business service that provides a date- and time-stamped digital fingerprint of any file. To that end, the file may be a technical drawing, a computer aided design file, an invention disclosure, Word document, Excel document, a music file, a video file or any other digital file format.

The digital fingerprint is a secure code which is created based on the document retained locally and never transferred to WIPO. The secure code or ‘fingerprint’ can provide verification later of the exact contents of the document, and the exact time and date that it was provided for verification, and by whom. In later proceedings where a document is used as evidence, a verification that this was the exact form of the document provided to WIPO at the claimed date and time can be given by comparison of a second fingerprint created on the later document, with the fingerprint held on file by WIPO. WIPO can then issue a certified document to this effect, which provides a reliable high standard of proof to be used in legal proceedings.

Recommended Best Practices

It is strongly advised to obtain digital fingerprints of any commercially important documents. We recommend at the very least obtaining digital fingerprints of documents shared or presented in commercial negotiations under NDAs or with an implied obligation of confidence. In the development of complex products, where engineering design may take a substantial period of time, we further recommend obtaining a digital fingerprint of all design files at regular intervals.

Our experts can obtain digital fingerprints of documents on your behalf. Additionally, we can maintain records of the exact documents verified, along with the time and date of verification and digital receipts. Please contact us for more information on this service.

 

This article (and any information accessed through links in this article) is provided for information and educational purposes only. This article does not constitute professional legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before performing any action based on the information provided in this article. All professional legal advice will be given in accordance with Creation IP Terms of Business. Please contact us for further information

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