In Belgium, intellectual property protection takes various forms: copyright and related rights, patents, trademarks, designs or models and plant breeders' rights. Through these protections, titleholders are granted the exclusive right, within a given time period and a specific geographic area, to exploit their intellectual property.
Intellectual property rights
Industrial property rights
Patents provide protection in the form of a legal right to property which allows titleholders to prohibit third parties from manufacturing, using or marketing their invention without their authorisation for a specific period of time within a specific geographic area. In order to be patentable, an invention must:
- be new;
- involve an inventive step;
- have an industrial application.
The period of protection is generally 20 years but in some cases may be longer.
Trademarks are primarily useful in distinguishing the origin of products or services and providing assurance to users of their identity. To obtain the exclusive right to use a trademark, it must be registered. Trademarks must be distinctive, lawful and available.
The term of protection throughout the Benelux region is ten years.
The protection of designs and Models applies to all or a part of a product's visual appearance as characterised by its:
- texture; or
Designs are two-dimensional forms and models are three-dimensional. In order to be protected, they must be novel and distinctive. In order to be protected, they must be novel and distinctive.
The period of protection is 5 years and may be renewed four times.
Plant breeders' rights grant titleholders the exclusive, temporary right to exploit the propagating material of a plant variety in a specified areas. To be protected, the plant variety must be:
- sufficiently uniform;
The period of protection is 25 years for trees and vines and 20 years for other plant species.
Copyright and related rights are granted to:
- authors of literary and artistic works;
- artists and performers;
- producers of sound recordings or the first transcriptions of a film;
- broadcasting organisations;
- database developers.
A work must be original and fixed in a material form that can be communicated to the public.
The term of copyright protection is 70 years after the death of the author.
Intellectual property protection
The Belgian Office for Intellectual Property (OPRI) is the official body for the registration of trademarks, designs and models within the Benelux area.
Fighting against counterfeiting and piracy
Intellectual property right enforcement is generally centralised in specific courts (usually the commercial courts established at the seat of a court of appeal).
Property rights encourage investment in innovation and research.
Patent applications are filed with the Office for intellectual property (OPRI) and shall be accompanied by payment of the application fee.
The registration of trademarks and processing of fees is handled by the Benelux Office for intellectual property (OBPI).
Model or Design
Designs and models are registered with the Benelux Office for intellectual property (OBPI).
Certificate of plant breeder's rights
Applications for plant breeder's rights are filed with the OPRI. Upon receipt of the complete file (application forms and filing fee), a filing date and official number are assigned.
Copyrights arise automatically on the creation of an original work. Therefore, administrative formalities are not required to acquire these rights. It may be useful, however, to register a work in order to prove its existence on a specific date. A date can be established in one of the following ways:
- application to the registry of the Federal Public Service Finance;
- engaging a notary to draw up a duly authenticated document establishing the existence of the work;
- using an i-DEPOT envelope to file with the BOIP.