Protecting your ideas
Sarah Eissa explores the options
Despite being visually challenged, Mohamed Ismail, 31, came up with an animation movie in 2009. However, a company stole the idea without granting him his intellectual or financial rights.
Ismail had another idea but that, too, was taken illegally by a company. The intellectual property violations forced Ismail to stop coming up with any ideas for the past two years. He just could not find any organisation or society which would safeguard his work.
Mohamed Hegazi, manager of an intellectual property office in the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), says intellectual property is divided into two: the word "property" means possessing something materialistic like a car or building, while "intellectual property" is to own something untouchable like ideas. Hegazi explains that worldwide laws speak about legalising intellectual property where people can own the productivity of ideas and expressions. "If someone has an idea for a machine, for example, he can protect it when he starts applying it in the form of a machine where it has a prototype. Then he can receive a patent from the governmental entity responsible for it." He added that there are criteria for receiving a patent such as a new creative idea that can be applied on the industrial level.
Copyright is not restricted to inventions but is also applied to poets, writers, music composers and computer programmes. "Any outcome of the human brain can be turned into a product or service," Hegazi explained. For example, logo designs may be registered as a trademark if they are new and creative and meet the legal requirements according to international laws and treaties.
But how can people protect their own intellectual property? Hegazi says there are legal and procedural means. The legal is by registering the invention at the patent office in the Academy of Science Research and Technology where they check if it meets the criteria, which means receiving the patent by making sure the invention was not registered before and that it's not similar to others.
After that, the creator receives the patent that offers exclusive rights for 20 years. "When the 20 years end, anyone can use the invention without the permission of the inventor as it becomes part of public domain for the community and the benefit of humanity," Hegazi adds.
On the other hand, the authors' rights such as computer programmes, music, movies, photography, poetry and books have automatic protection by law and do not have to be registered. At the same time, registering is a procedural protection for proving property right. According to Hegazi, the author's copyrights are protected lifetime and end after 50 years of the creator's death. He added that books are registered at the same time the creator applies for them.
Hegazi says that the time it takes the invention to be registered differs from one office to another but that the average time in Egypt is around 24 months. Whatever the period, the creator is protected since he has applied for registering the product. "When a person applies for an invention or trademark he receives a receipt with the date of registration. It consequently becomes protected until he receives a registration certificate." After a while the applicant may be denied if he does not meet the registration criteria and might lose the protection he received the first day.
Despite the protection, some people violate the intellectual property of others. In such cases the victim may file a lawsuit or a police report. Another quick procedure is egraa tahfozy which stops that person from selling or using the product or trademark until the real owner files a case during around 25 days.
If the violation is related to computer programmes, the owner can seek the intellectual property office in ITIDA. In 2011 there were around 900 violations received, Hegazi said. In late 2008 a law was issued for economic courts where part of it is related to intellectual property so it uses to deal with all the intellectual property cases.
Where to go with your idea:
- Inventions: Patent office at the Academy of Science Research and Technology.
- Computer programme: Intellectual Property Office (ITIDA).
- Logo or industrial design: Trademark office at the Ministry of Trade.