Intellectual property protection in the Internet

Due to its digital nature, the whole Internet content (texts, images, audio and video materials) is extremely accessible and easy to copy. The copy and the original are identical in this binary environment. The biggest advantage of Internet, easy and fast dissemination to millions of users, turned into the most serious problem of IP protection. Some traditional means of legal protection in offline conditions are completely applicable in particular areas but in other areas they are inadequate for the online existence of some types of intellectual property.

The Law on Copyrights and Related Rights protects works of original authorship from unauthorized duplication, modification, and distribution. No formalities are required for copyright protection to come into force; mere creation of a work gives rise to substantial rights. However, placement of a copyright symbol (©) and a notice with the name of author provide clear notification who possess the ownership over the particular work . Copyright protection may last 15 to 70 years depending on the type of the particular copyrighted work. Databases are protectable objects of copyright law for 15 years, but copyright over literary works lasts 70 years.
EU member states protect computer programs are protected by copyright, as literary works (Directive 91/250/ЕEC)
The challenges from the use of World Wide Web for publishing of copyrighted content are linked on the one hand with the inability to effectively control unauthorized copying and use of this content and on the other hand with the attitudes of the Internet community for freedom in the use of such content. The number of claims for copyright infringement of content on the Internet steadily increases as the most active are software companies and music and movies publishers.

Law on Marks and Geographical Indications protects words, names, symbols, drawings, forms, the form of the commodity or its packing, combination of colours, sound or any combinations of such signs, used by one person to identify its goods services and distinguish them from those used by others. The right over a trademark arises through registration as of the date of submitting the application in the Patent Office. A trademark shall be subject to periodic renewal every 10 years after initial registration.
Registration of a mark in Bulgarian Patent Office gives protection only on the territory of Bulgaria and does not provide rights in other countries. Such rights must be obtained separately in the countries where protection is desired or by filling application for registration a Community Trademark which gives protection on the territory of the EU member states.
The use of Internet domain names as trademarks and vice versa has generated a number of disputes between trademark owners and domain registrants, so called collision of trademarks and domain names. Judicial procedure has an alternative trough its referral of the dispute to some of accredited by ICANN organizations for resolving disputes pursuant to the rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolutions Policy. The procedure may result in adjudication in favor of the TM holder and the transfer of the disputed domain name to it. A complainant in a UDRP proceeding must prove three elements to succeed: the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; the registrant does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name and the registrant registered the domain name and is using it in “bad faith.” Failure to prove any of the above conditions leads to adjudication in favor of the registrant, who retains the right over the domain.

Bulgarian patent law (Law on the Patents and the Registration of Utility Models) protects inventions in all technical fields that are novel, involve an inventive step and industrial applicability.
The right for submitting a patent applications is granted to the individual
inventors. The patent is valid for 20 years from the date the patent application was filed in the Patent Office. Bulgarian inventors have the right to seek patent protection for their inventions abroad by filing an application for European patent or for an international registration. The maintaining of the patent requires payment of annual patent fees.
Following the principles of European law, Bulgarian legislation specifically excludes computer programs from patent protection. This principle has exceptions when seeking patent protection for computer programs, which do not seek protection for itself but the program is inseparable part, incorporated into the invention and that invention incorporating computer program matches the criteria for patentability.
Protection of inventions and innovative ideas can be achieved through the so called “Defensive publishing”, which is an alternative to patent protection acting as a barrier for competitors to obtain a patent for the same invention and gives the inventor freedom freely to use the invention. By publishing of innovative ideas in the public domain (, etc.) the inventor gives legal existence of these ideas using the well known principle in patent protection “prior user rights”.

Trade Secrets
A trade secret is any device or information that is used in a business and that gives the owner an advantage over others who do not know or use it. Bulgarian Law on Protection of Competition defines trade secret as “facts, information, solutions and data relating to business, whose keeping in secret is in the interest of those entitled and when they have taken the necessary measures for keeping confidentiality.” The same law prohibits learning, using or disclosure of a trade secret in contrary to good commercial practice. No formal registrations are required for trade secret protection. Trade secret protection may last indefinitely, but is lost when the information becomes generally known to the public. The trade secret is protectable by law under simultaneous existence of the following conditions:

▪ The information was not known to competitors;
▪ The owner has made every reasonable effort to protect its secret;
▪ Information has become known trough “bad faith”.

The key point in protecting trade secrets is the classification of information that constitutes trade secrets as confidential as well as providing controlled access to this information to authorized personnel and provide technical resources for adequate and reliable data protection.
Sending emails with confidential information from employees, using social networks to share confidential company information, unauthorized access (hacking) of corporate servers with sensitive information are among the most common violations that took place on the Internet for unauthorized access, disclosing and dissemination of trade secret.

The Internet technology has affected to a different degree and in a different way each field of IP law.
How traditional means of intellectual property protection will be affected by new concepts of “fair use” and extensive usage of free licenses cannot be predicted at this stage. The main objective of IP Law is finding the right balance between individual rights and public interest.