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When might an i-DEPOT be useful?

An i-DEPOT might be useful if you need evidence. This is because abstract ideas, such as the idea to make books available in digital form using an electronic reader, cannot be protected but the concrete result of such an idea (the e-reader) sometimes can.

The fact that you have recorded your idea in an i-DEPOT does not mean that you hold an exclusive right or monopoly on that idea. It does allow you to prove, however, that your creation already existed on a certain date. That can be quite useful in the event of a conflict.

Submitting an i-DEPOT makes sense in a number of different situations:

1. For intellectual property rights without formal registration

Some intellectual property rights arise automatically without any need to register, protect or record them. One example is the copyright that arises spontaneously the moment you have created something. If your creation has a “distinct and original character” and bears your “personal hallmark”, it is covered by copyright. Originality is an important concept in copyright law. The extent to which your creation or work is considered original depends on the moment at which it came into being and whether similar creations or works existed at that time. This means that in order to be able to assess the degree of originality, it is important to know exactly when the item concerned was invented or designed. This is exactly the evidence that the i-DEPOT provides. In addition to the design right a new type of protection has been introduced: the non-registered Community design. As the name suggests, this type of protection does not require registration. The period covered by the protection is three years from the date the idea is publicised (i.e., made available to the public). The party entitled can only take action in cases of deliberate imitation. This type of protection is potentially helpful if applied, for example, to designs with a short life-cycle, such as for clothing.

2. If you want to keep your idea secret

A patent right is an exclusive right to a technical or other type of invention. It enables you to prevent others from marketing your invention. A patent right requires formal registration of your invention through a patent application. However, you may choose not to apply for a patent and keep your invention secret for as long as possible, for example if the costs of a patent are not in proportion to the expected revenues or if the life-cycle of your product is shorter than the time it takes to complete the patent application process. Or simply if you prefer to keep your method or invention secret, which The Coca-Cola Company did with its Coca-Cola ® recipe. In such cases, the i-DEPOT can serve as a very useful piece of evidence. 

An i-DEPOT ensures secrecy for your invention, while it does allow you to prove, if necessary, that the invention is yours.

If, after negotiations have failed, your former partner were to apply for a patent for your invention, the i-DEPOT would enable you to prove that the invention already existed and is actually yours.

3. When your idea is still in the development stage

There are cases in which you may want to register a design or patent but cannot do so immediately because it does not yet satisfy all the conditions. In such a situation you can use the i-DEPOT as evidence. This would be useful, for example, if your design is still in the early stages of development but has already acquired a distinct style or if your invention needs to be fleshed out in further detail to qualify for a patent. An i-DEPOT enables you to demonstrate that the idea is yours, and to record the development process. If you wish to apply for a patent or design right at a later stage, it is important to keep the contents of your i-DEPOT strictly secret. If you do not, you might harm the novelty of your idea and lose your option of protecting it through a patent or as a registered design. This is why the BOIP will strictly guard the secrecy of your i-DEPOT. You cannot publicise your invention or design until you have filed a valid application for a patent or design right.

4. If you want to be able to speak freely with potential partners

If you want to be able to speak freely with potential partners Are you planning to approach potential business partners with your idea? In such a case, the i-DEPOT will give you the opportunity to negotiate freely. You can include the i-DEPOT number in a confidentiality agreement. If a potential partner subsequently publicises your idea, you will be able to demonstrate that the confidentiality agreement has been violated. 

The i-DEPOT can be an important first step in your innovation process, for example in the preliminary phase of an application for a design or patent. Note, however, that it does not in itself create an independent intellectual property right. This means that you will still have to seek legal protection after the design phase. This is why we advise you to consult an intellectual property expert to discuss your options.