Aphaia’s blog editor Vasiliki Antoniadou and founder Dr Bostjan Makarovic explore tech startups intangibles from intellectual property (IP) to personal data in our latest White Paper that is now available for free in Aphaia Knowledge Centre.
In an age where entire business models evolve around the collection, processing and presentation of information, the legal protection of such investment is imperative. Some examples from the tech startups include information about restaurants or holidays, tickets, or real estate. Intellectual Property (IP) is the key in order to achieve the desirable legal protection. More precisely, we should take a closer look at the often overlooked database right and the valuable trade secrets law.
How is a database protected?
A database is defined as “a collection of independent works, data or other materials which are arranged in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic or other means.”
In order for copyright to be granted in this case, originality in the selection and/or arrangement of the contents of the database is required. Since the originality threshold varies between common law and civil law countries and copyright has also proved inadequate to effectively protect databases that lack the originality criterion, the EU legislator adopted a sui generis right database right.
In order to qualify for database protection a “substantial investment” in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of the database is required. Investment of any nature is taken into consideration and its substantiality is measured quantitatively and qualitatively. For 15 years after the creation (or the making available to the public) of the database, third parties are not allowed to extract or re-utilise all or a substantial part of the contents of a protected database without the owner’s authorisation.
What about trade secrets?
According to the fundamental principle of Intellectual Property law, information should be free from any monopoly and available to the general public. However, information may actually be protected so long as it is secret, significant steps have been taken in order for it to be kept secret and it has commercial value because it is secret.
Namely, a company should identify their valuable trade secrets and put in place appropriate contracts and strategy for the creation of a confidentiality culture in the company. Although the trade secrets are not monopoly rights and competitors may use the information if it was acquired independently, the recent EU Directive strengthens significantly the position of the trade secret owners providing them civil means to seize the disclosure and use of their valued information.