In Belgium, there are different ways of protecting intellectual property: the copyright and related rights, the patent, the trademark, the design or the model and the PBR. These give their holders an exclusive right for the exploitation of their intellectual property in a limited area and for a limited time.
The Belgian Office for Intellectual Property (OPRI) is the official body for the registration of trademarks and designs in the Benelux.
Intellectual property in Belgium can be divided in two main categories: industrial property rights on the one hand and the rights of literary and artistic property on the other.
The industrial property rights relate to creations that play an important economic role in the processes of production and distribution. This is the case of some innovations, such as inventions, medicines, new plant varieties or a new design, which can be protected by respective patents, the plant breeders' rights and human designs. The industrial property rights can also be applied to distinctive signs such as trademarks or geographical indications. Without real intellectual property, trade names and company names also receive some protection.
Literary and artistic property include copyrights and neighboring rights, mainly aimed for music, literary works, paintings, sculptures, photographs, artistic performances, broadcasts. Technical creations as databases, the software, topography and electronic chips are also protected by copyright under literary and artistic property.
The main distinction between these two groups of intellectual property rights is how the law treats them. Most industrial property rights are obtained after a formal procedure, usually consisting of a recording, whereas copyright and neighboring rights arise automatically at the time of creation.
In the rights of intellectual property in Belgium is included the patent, available for industrial intellectual property and is regulated by the Act of 28 March 1984 on patents. The patent provides protection in the form of a legal title that allows the proprietor to give the right to a third party, for a certain time and in a particular territory, to make, use or sell his invention without his permission. To be patentable, an invention must be new, must involve an inventive step and must be be capable of industrial application. The term of protection for a patent is 20 years, but it may be prolonged in certain situations provided by the law.
Another form of protecting intellectual property in Belgium is the trademark, which is mainly used to distinguish the source of goods or services and to ensure the identity of the user. The entitled person must register the trademark for the exclusive right to use it. The trademark must be distinctive, lawful and available, it guarantees the right of intellectual property for 10 years the and its characteristics are provided by the Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property issued on February 25, 2005.
The intellectual property in Belgium is also protected for designs, which imply protection for all the appearance of a part or all of a product given by the features: lines, its contours, colors, its form, texture or materials. The designs include two-dimensional shapes while models denote the three-dimensional shapes. To be protected, they must be new and must have individual character. The duration of protection is five years and may be renewed 4 times.
PBR is included in the intellectual property in Belgium and gives its holder an exclusive right time for the exploitation of reproductive material of a plant variety in a limited area. To be protected, the plant variety must be new, separate, sufficiently homogeneous and stable and the conditions and characteristics are regulated by the Act on the Protection of Plant Varieties issued on May 20, 1975. The term of protection is 25 years for trees and vines and 20 years for other plant species.
The copyright and neighboring rights in Belgium are the rights for authors of literary and artistic works, artists and performers, producers of phonograms or first fixations of films, broadcasting organizations, producing databases.
The work must be original and take concrete form to its communication to the public and is regulated by the Law on Copyright and Neighboring Rights. The copyright lasts 70 years after the author's death.
Contact our lawyers in Belgium to find out more about intellectual property in Benelux. Our specialist can help your register any form of intellectual property and can provide customized advice in this legal field.
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