Warning for inventors and creators regarding abusive offers relating to the registration of intellectual property rights with no legal value
Before signing any document meant to offer national or international protection to your creation and paying to obtain this document, make sure that the person or organisation offering you this protection is legally authorised to do so.
The Intellectual Property Office wants to draw the attention of inventors, rightholders and patent, trademark or design and model applicants, and creators in general, to the fact that private companies and associations that claim to be specialists in intellectual property and often use names, acronyms or symbols that sound official (European Union flag, acronyms similar to those of certain international intergovernmental organisations or ©) are canvassing companies and individuals to offer :
- either to register their patents, trademarks, designs or models or their applications for patents, trademarks, designs or models in unofficial registers or publications,
- or to purchase securities whose supposed effect is to protect an invention, trademark, design or model by copyright .
The Intellectual Property Office reports that this type of offer has no legal effect with regard to intellectual property rights.
Mention of the sign “ © ” for “ copyright ”
The mention of the " © " ( copyright ) sign is an optional (not legal) and discouraging sign. This design is mentioned to attract people's attention to the existence of a copyright claim for the creation on which it is mentioned. The © sign can also be used to identify the author and allow him to enjoy a presumption as stated in Article XI.170, paragraph 2 of the Code of Economic Law, which stipulates that " without proof to the contrary, the author is presumed to be the person who appears as such on the work, to the indication of his name or a sign allowing his identification ". The mention of this sign does not produce any additional protection for the author of the creation.
The copyright and the " © " sign originated in the United States.
The American system previously required the completion of certain formalities in order to obtain copyright protection. It was the compulsory registration system known as copyright.
However, in 1986, the United States ratified the Berne Convention, according to which the enjoyment and exercise of copyright were not subject to any formalities (Art. 5.2). The United States, therefore, had to comply with this requirement and abolished prior registration as a condition for the protection of works by copyright.
As registers of patents, trademarks and designs or models are public, certain service providers use the data they contain to send unsolicited messages, and even "ghost" invoices to rightholders with a view to the publication, registration or listing in professional directories. These services are invoiced at often exorbitant prices and are not related to the official services for the registration of patents, trademarks, designs or models provided by legally approved public bodies.
The Intellectual Property Office would like to draw your attention to the fact that these practices could, under certain circumstances, be described as deceptive or abusive and could constitute dishonest commercial practices. The Office recommends that you take the greatest care before signing any documents relating to this issue.
If you receive this type of letter or invoice, please carefully check the exact content of the offer of services, particularly the financial conditions and the source of the offer. You will also find examples of such offers and recommendations on how to examine them on the website of the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property and on the website of the European Union Intellectual Property Office.
You will find below, as illustration, a link to a judgment delivered on January 14, 2005 by the Court of Appeal of Brussels, ninth Chamber, which condemns this type of offers.
Anyone wanting further information can contact the Office on the following telephone number: +32 2 277 52 88.
Competent official authorities
The publication and registration of Belgian or European patent applications and Belgian or European patents only have legal effect, if they are carried out by the following bodies respectively :
- the Intellectual Property Office Belgium;
- and the European Patent Office.
Furthermore, European patents and European patent applications are automatically registered in the European patent register in application of the European Patent Convention.
Benelux trademarks and designs or models
The filing, registration and renewal of Benelux trademarks, designs or models only have legal effect, if they are carried out by the Intellectual Property Office Belgium and the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property respectively.
A work can be protected by copyright without formalities, as of two legal conditions are met:
- The first involves the preparation and realisation of the creation with a view to its communication. Indeed, an idea cannot be protected in itself. It is part of the public domain.
- The second condition lies in the original character of the creation, i.e. " an individual and original character that bears the personal stamp of the author " (C.J. Benelux, 22 May 1987, R.C.J.B., 1988, p. 568. See also Cass., 27 April 1989, Pas., 1989, p.908.).
Industrial property rights in general
In general terms, industrial property rights (patents, trademarks, designs and models), are only obtained after filing or registration with the national or international authorities authorised by a legal instrument with force of law or the effect of a treaty. Some of these authorities are: