Intellectual property in the context of the new funding programmes
Innovation will play a key role in obtaining grants within the 2014-2020 funding period. Over € 1.5 billion is available for the Romanian market until 2020. The focus on innovation will also lead to a distinct pursuit for various types of intellectual property. In the coming period, a number of programmes with an annual cycle up to 2020 will be launched, which will focus precisely on the innovation industry (more details here).
In this context, ICT companies can benefit from a large range of funding opportunities – within the programmes mentioned above, as well as within programmes exclusively targeting SMEs in this industry (more details here).
In Romania, business practices surrounding intellectual property in the SME sector, the main target of the innovation funds, are more limited and less developed than with large corporations or with similar SME sectors in Western markets.
Therefore, Winnovart offers – together with our expert in intellectual property, Claudia Jelea – a brief analysis of the most relevant aspects of intellectual property in the context of the innovation funding programmes, with particular attention to concepts applicable to the ICT industry.
Since the most valuable asset of an ICT company is its intellectual property (IP), this must be protected accordingly. IP comes in a variety of forms (copyrights, trade marks, industrial designs, trade secrets, etc.) and can cover various objects (video games, mobile applications, databases, source codes, logos, graphic interfaces, etc.). To obtain protection, the respective type of IP must be officially registered by following the applicable registration procedures. What does the protection include? Exclusive ownership rights for a number of years. Here are a few further details:
Any original software can be protected with a copyright. Therefore, programs and operating systems, source codes, lines of code, object codes, the preparatory design material, user manuals, the design, the graphic interface, certain databases, the text and any other original content belonging to the software (for example, images, videos or audio clips included in the software) can be protected with a copyright from the moment these are created. Submitting a computer program to ORDA (The Romanian Copyright Office) is mandatory only in certain circumstances stipulated by law, and not in all cases.
Along with copyright protection, the graphic interface (“look and feel”) of a software can also be registered as an industrial design with OSIM (The State Office for Inventions and Trade Marks) if the legal conditions are met. However, it should be kept in mind that an industrial design right only protects the “exterior aspect” and not the computer program in itself.
The development of software can also involve trade secrets (pricing strategies, business plan, marketing plan, etc.) that should be kept confidential. That is why it is useful to conclude contracts with employees, freelance programmers, potential business partners and investors (i.e. persons that have received details regarding the development and implementation of the software) so that there is legal protection against the disclosure of any information that they have had access to.
Trade mark (and the internet domain name)
The name of the software can either be registered as a trade mark in Romania only at OSIM, or as a Community Trade Mark that is valid throughout the 28 EU member states, and/or as a trade mark in other countries in which you are present. However, keep in mind that a trade mark does not protect the computer program, but only the name/logo that is used in public.
In general, within Romania and the EU, a computer program in itself cannot obtain protection through a patent right since it is not considered an invention. However, there are situations where an IT product or solution can obtain a patent if certain legal conditions are met (for example, if it is an IT invention that is made with the use of a computer). Thus the analysis is done on a case-by-case basis, always taking into consideration, among others, the technical effect, technical functionalities, innovative aspects and practical application of the respective IT product. Nonetheless, it should be kept in mind that a patent right does not protect the computer program in itself, but only the program’s technical solution to a technical problem.