World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a global forum for intellectual property (IP) assisting governments, businesses and society realizing the benefits of IP.
To further assist innovators and creators to safeguard their work on the journey from concept to commercialization, WIPO has recently launched, on May 27, 2020, a new online service: WIPO PROOF. This service allows producing tamper-proof evidence which can be used to prove that a digital file existed at a specific point of time. The system (detailed here) relies on the use of a one-way hashing algorithm creating a unique digital fingerprint. Only this fingerprint, and not the digital file, will be uploaded by WIPO and be used to generate a token (WIPO PROOF token) which will be downloaded by the user as the proof of existence of the digitale file at the point in time the token was created.
The WIPO PROOF tokens may be validated by any interested party on WIPO PROOF's website and can be used as evidence in legal disputes.
This system of proof may be applied to any kind of data which may exist in electronic form, to be kept secret or to be disclosed at some point of time in the future, but for which prior possession or prior use should be able to be proven. For example, this system may find application to prove prior possession of a software algorithm, a formula, a recipe, a manufacturing process, a list of clients, or a business plan.
Proving that you were in possession of a trade secret at a certain point in time and demonstrating that specific steps were taken to secure this intellectual asset will greatly assist you to defend your business in law courts against trade secret thefts.
The main difference with the French Evenloppe Soleau resides in that with WIPO PROOF the data are not transferred to WIPO, while with the Enveloppe Soleau the value of the proof relies upon the deposit of the data to INPI. The duration of storage of an Enveloppe Soleau by INPI is five-years, extendible by five years once. That makes the duration of the proof by Enveloppe Soleau of at most 10 years. By contrast, with WIPO PROOF there is no transfer of data, and WIPO proposes (depending on the level of service acquired) to indefinitely keep the token. Therefore, the validity of the WIPO proof can be indefinite.
The costs between the two systems appear to be very close, that is between 15 and 20 € per data file to be secured.
Nonetheless, one must be cautious to keep in mind that WIPO PROOF and the Enveloppe Soleau are tools aiming at creating evidences of prior rights over intellectual property assets at various stages of creation and development of a project. They should not be confused as means allowing to register IP rights, such as patents, trademarks or designs & models, with an IP Office.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
Hervé GICQUIAUX - French & European Patent Attorney