Having worked in the field of copyright for more years than I care to remember, it was refreshing to come across a new way to demonstrate ownership of unregistered IP.

A traditional method of showing when a copyright work, such  as a book, drawing or song, was created was to put a copy in an envelope and send it to yourself (or your lawyer). The envelope showing a dated postmark would need to be left unopened on arrival. (This would be in addition to marking the work with the copyright legend: ©, the date and the name of the owner, which gives rise to a presumption of copyright ownership).

If the date of first creation of the work was ever challenged, the owner could produce the un-opened envelope  as evidence of the date of creation.

Now, thanks to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) we have “WIPO Proof”. This is a new fee-based, digital service, which  provides a date and time stamped digital record of any file, providing evidence of its existence at a certain point in time, referred to as a “WIPO Proof token”. (See www.wipo.int/wipoproof/en/ for more details and some FAQs).

In addition to copyright, WIPO states that the service can be used to record when a wide range of digital files were created,  ranging from research results to data training sets for artificial intelligence algorithms.

The WIPO Proof token (the digital fingerprint of the work) will be stored by WIPO for 5 years, but this period can be extended, subject to a further payment.

However, it is worth remembering that the WIPO Proof service will sit alongside and does not replace the registration systems for patents, trademarks and designs, which will still provide the primary forms of protection for registerable IP rights.