Intellectual Property Law in Israel
by Tony Greenman, attorney at law
Israel grants copyright protection to original literary, artisctic, dramatic and musical works, as well as sound recordings and computer programs. Cinematic works are protected as dramatic works. With a few exeptions, protection of a work runs from the date of creation until the end of the seventieth year after the year of the death of the author. However, sound recordings and photographs created before May 25th, 2008 are protected for fifty years only (although at the time of writing a bill which will extend the term of protection to 70 years is pending before the Knesset). Moral rights of authors, specifically the right of paternity or attribution and the right of integrity, are also protected.
Israel grants protection to performers of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Subect to certain exceptions, a performer enjoys the exclusive right to authorize any fixation, reproduction or broadcast of his performance, and to oppose any authrized distribution of such a fixation or a reproduction of the performance. The term of protection is 50 years from the date of the performance, although the Knesset is currently discussing a bill which proposes to extend the term to 70 years. Performers also enjoy moral rights. In line with the TRIPS agreement and the Rome Convention, Israel has implemented certain protection for foreign performances. For more information on Performers' rights in Israel, please go to the Copyright page. You may also read the relevant chapter in the chapter on Israel in "Copyright Throughout the World" (see above).
Trademarks may be registered in Israel through the Patent and Trademarks Authority. The registration process entails filing of an application, payment of filing fees, examination by an examiner from the authority, publication, and, possibly, opposition proceedings. A valid registration accords the owner the exclusive right to use the trademark in respect of the goods or services for which it was registered, Use of the mark, or a confusingly similar mark, for the same or closely related goods or services will be an infringement. Well known marks receive broader protection, which may stretch across a broader spectrum of goods and servives.
Under Israeli law, a trademark registration is valid for 10 years from the date of the trademark application. The registration may be renewed for further periods of 10 years each. A mark may be deleted from the register due to non-use.
Israel is a member of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Where the applicant of a trademark application has filed an application in a treaty member state within the six months preceding his application in Israel, and where a competing application for the same mark is filed by another party, the date of that earlier member state application will be considered as the relevant date for the purposes of deciding priority between the two applications.
Israel is also a member of the Madrid Protocol. Pursuant thereto, legislation implementing its provisions has been enacted which allows for the filing of international applications in Israel through the procedure set up by the protocol. Israeli trademark owners and applicants may also file international applications under the protocol, through WIPO. For more on Trademarks in Israel, please go to the Trademark page.
The Israeli Patent Authority grants patents for inventions which are new, useful, non-obvious and include an inventive step. Patents are available for products or processes in any field of technology. An invention will be considered new if it has not previously been disclosed, in writing, orally or otherwise in Israel or anywhere else. The term of Patent protection is twenty years from the date of the application. Israel is a member of the Paris convention and consequently grants priority status to holders of foreign convention state member applications under the rules of the convention. The Patent Authority has so far refused to register business method patents.
Design protection is available in Israel for original, previously unpublished designs of objects. Protection is granted for five years, and may be renewed for two further terms of five years, for a total of 15 years. Design protection is important, since Israel's copyright law denies copyright protection for the design elements of industrial articles. Design protection does not protect the functional aspects of a design. Non-registered designs may be protectible under alterantive legal theories, such as the law of unjust enrichment, or the law of passing-off. However, it is far more difficult to succeed on a claim under one of these theories than under a claim for infringement of a registered design.
Under Israeli law, a trade secret is any information, the confidentially of which provides its proprietor an advantage over his competitors. Client lists, business plans and business ideas are examples of such information. Information is confidential for so long as it is not in the public domain or easily available, and provided that its proprietor takes reasonable steps to preserve its confidentiality. Trade secrets are protected from unlawful appropriation by others or unauthorized use. Under the Commercial Torts law, a court may award statutory damages of up to NIS 100,000 to a succesful plaintiff in a trade secret appropriation action
The goodwill of a business may be considered as a kind of intellectual property, or quasi intellectual property. The existence of goodwill is a question of fact to be proven by relevant evidence. The threshold is high. The law may be used to protect the proprietor of goodwill from misappropriation by others in a variety of manners, such as under the tort of passing-off or the law of unjust enrichment.
Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that "imperfect intellectual property", or "quasi IP" i.e. IP that fails to be protected under the traditional IP laws, may be protected from misappropriation under the Law of Unjust Enrichment. For this protection to apply, the unauthroized or competing use use of the IP must be coupled by an "additional factor" such as bad faith or unfair competition. This rule, which is the subject of much criticism, was applied originally to protect unregistered designs. However, courts have expanded its application and it has been used in varying and suprising circumstances. In one case, a company was ordered ro pay restitution to the ownet of a private home, when the company used a photograph of the home in an advertising. However, in other cases, courts have rejected attepots to use the law in cases of copying of "works" which clearly failed to meet the threshold of copyright protection.
Israel also protects Geographical Indicators and Plant Breeds.