If you have created a database that is accessible by electronic or other means – you can protect:
- the content, via a sui generis right (A right that recognises the investment that is made in compiling a database, even when this does not involve the creative aspect that is reflected by copyright)
- its structure, via a copyright
If your database meets the requirements for copyright and sui generis right protections, you can apply for both.
Protect your original database through copyright
If your database is an original intellectual creation, you can protect it through copyright, which guarantees you exclusive rights (The holder or holders of the IP can exclude anyone else from using the IP in question) to reproduce, adapt, distribute the database or any variation of it. With copyright, you protect the structure of your database and not its content.
Sui generis protection
If the structure of your database is not an original creation, you can still protect its content under the sui generis right (a right that recognises the investment that is made in compiling a database, even when this does not involve the creative aspect that is reflected by copyright).
To benefit from the sui generis database right, you or the maker of the database must be EU nationals or residents in the EU. To obtain sui generis protection you need to prove that you have made a substantial investment (financial, material and/or human) in either, obtaining, the verification or the presentation of the database content.
The sui generis database right protects the content of your database. You or the maker of the database can prevent the extraction and/or reuse of the whole or a substantial part of the database's content. When you create the database and it meets the requirements for the sui generis protection, you are automatically granted this protection for 15 years, starting either from the creation date or from when the database was first made publicly available.
Karoline and Frederik run a law consultancy in Denmark. They want to create an electronic database collecting case law documentation. To do so, they need to consult different external sources in order to collect data, a task that involves several months of work. Now that the database is completed, Karoline and Frederik can commercialise it and can claim sui generis rights for it, which means that they can prevent others from extracting and/or reusing substantial parts of the content of their database for 15 years. However, the reuse or the extraction of only one case law file or insubstantial parts of case law is freely available.
For further information, consult the page on database protection from the European Intellectual Property Rights Helpdesk (EHD).