It is well settled that an idea cannot be protected as such by an IP right. However, since most breakthroughs or significant changes in business are based on ideas - often a simple but brilliant idea - it seems appropriate to consider just how an idea can be valued.

From the moment that an idea takes shape in the mind of its creator, until it becomes an expression that can be protected by copyright and neighbouring rights, or until it transforms into a patentable product or process, it is unprotected. It is not uncommon for the same idea to take shape simultaneously in the minds of two or more persons; thus, speed in capitalising on an idea can be key for its future success.

Eugène Soleau dealt with this issue as early as 1910, introducing the means of proof known as the "Soleau envelope" into France. Since 2008 a similar service, “the Ideas Envelope”, has been offered by the Romanian State Office for Inventions and Trademarks (OSIM), the national authority in the field of industrial property.

The service offers support to keep safe ideas which cannot be protected (eg, technical works, studies, photos, aesthetical creations, theories). OSIM will stamp works and creations with a submission date and keep them safe in a non-public regime.

The Ideas Envelope does not represent an IP right, but can be used as a proof to verify the date and author of a work.

The Ideas Envelope consists of two identical A5 compartments. Two copies of the work are placed in the envelope (one in each compartment) and the envelope is sealed. Then the name, surname and full address of the depositor and the work title are written on the envelope in clear writing. The envelope is then accepted for registration by OSIM; after verification of its completeness, it is registered on the same day by entering the identification data into the relevant registers.

The Ideas Envelope is kept by OSIM for a period of five years from the registration date, which may be extended for another five years on the payment of a fee (approximately €25).

Disputes related to the Ideas Envelope are not handled by OSIM, since such cases fall within the jurisdiction of the civil courts, where the envelope is deemed to constitute substantial evidence.

Although the importance of this service has not yet been explored in Romania, since to date only a few ideas have been registered with OSIM, it could prove a valuable tool for ideas originators in the future.

This article first appeared in IAM magazine. For further information please visit www.iam-magazine.com