INSIGHT

The PROOF is in the pudding? Using WIPO's new digital evidence tool to strengthen your IP rights

By Jacob Flynn
Data Intellectual Property Litigation Patents & Trade Marks

In brief 3 min read

The World Intellectual Property Organization has launched WIPO PROOF – a new service that can be used to prove that a digital file existed at a given point in time and has not been altered since then. Organisations should consider how they can use this new tool to strengthen their IP management strategy and supplement existing rights.

Key takeaways

  • WIPO's new service can be used to prove the existence and contents of a digital file at a given time.
  • This tool can strengthen and supplement IP rights. Potential applications include proving authorship or entitlement, discouraging theft of confidential information and establishing prior use defences.
  • Organisations wishing to utilise this technology need to do so proactively.

Who in your organisation needs to know about this?

Legal teams and anyone else involved in registering, enforcing or defending IP rights.

What is WIPO PROOF?

In brief, WIPO PROOF allows users to prove that a digital file existed at a given point in time and that it has not been altered since the time the file was submitted to WIPO PROOF. While this tool is likely to lend itself to a broad range of commercial uses, it will be particularly valuable to those involved in managing IP. Some potential applications (though by no means all of them) are:

  • proving authorship of a work in which copyright may subsist, use of a trade mark at a particular time, or entitlement to a patent or design;
  • discouraging and demonstrating theft of trade secrets and confidential information;
  • creating a timestamped record of anything that is not yet ready for publication, or not intended to be published at all. Examples include songs that are not ready for commercialisation, and important data the publication of which could destroy novelty in future patent applications;
  • establishing a prior use defence in patent infringement proceedings; and
  • demonstrating compliance with regulatory obligations.

The nitty gritty – how does it work?

The underlying technology may be complex but the process itself is straightforward.

WIPO PROOF uses an algorithm to process the user's file and determine its unique 'fingerprint'. To ensure confidentiality, the file never leaves the user's computer – it is processed on the computer and only the fingerprint is uploaded. WIPO then issues a timestamped digital certificate containing the fingerprint.

At a later date, the user can 'validate' the file against that certificate. WIPO PROOF processes the file, determines its unique fingerprint and compares this to the fingerprint on the certificate. If the fingerprints match, the file is identical to the one used to create the certificate – in other words, the user has independent verification that the file existed at the time on the timestamped certificate.

Is the PROOF really in the pudding?

WIPO PROOF is an innovative tool and organisations will no doubt find creative ways to weave it into their IP management strategies. But it is essential to bear in mind what the technology can and can't do. Some important points to remember are:

  • It is no substitute for registered IP rights (although it may help you acquire, enforce and defend them).
  • It is not retroactive – there is no point purchasing a certificate today if you need to prove that a file existed five years ago.
  • It requires an exact copy of the document that you wish to verify – meaning that it must be used in conjunction with strong digital file management systems.
  • It only proves that a file existed at a given date – not that the information in the file is true or that the possessor is the author or owner of the work.
  • It costs a little over A$30 per file (with discounts to around A$20 for bulk purchases) – so organisations looking to integrate it into their IP strategy may need to be selective about which files they submit.

Actions you can take now

If you would like further information about WIPO PROOF and how your organisation may be able to use it as part of an effective IP management strategy, please contact any of the people below.