WIPO Proof – New way to facilitate proof of digital evidence
Earlier this year, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) launched a new date- and time-stamping service for digital files called “WIPO PROOF”. It is an easy-to-use global online service that certifies the existence of a digital file at a certain date and time. WIPO PROOF is applicable to creative works and designs, trade secrets and know-how, research and data, and other digital assets.
In short, WIPO PROOF generates a digital fingerprint for the digital file called “WIPO PROOF Token”, and such token is valid for five years, which is renewable upon request. A receiver of the WIPO PROOF Token can verify the existence of the relevant digital file free of charge using the WIPO PROOF web application. WIPO PROOF Token may be converted into a formal, printable certificate to be submitted to authorities.
Advantages of WIPO PROOF are summarized as follows:-
- It provides tamper-proof evidence to certify the existence of digital files at a certain time;
- It is applicable to digital files of different types of works, regardless of whether and what type of intellectual property rights they may mature in;
- It does not require the digital files to be uploaded, hence addressing the concern for confidentiality;
- WIPO PROOF Token is more widely recognized than registration records by local authorities given the status of WIPO as a global organization; and
- By providing a central database for obtaining time stamps, it avoids the time- and cost-consuming process of obtaining time stamps in every single jurisdiction.
We envisage that WIPO PROOF will be particularly useful in facilitating proof of copyright work produced and/or stored through electronic means. In particular, given that Hong Kong, unlike the Mainland China and the United States, does not have its own official copyright registration system, it is relatively common for Hong Kong copyright owners to encounter challenges to copyright subsistence and validity when they bring a copyright infringement litigation in court. It is expected that WIPO Proof will be adduced in court as prima facie proof of creation date of copyright work and/or time-stamp for other digital evidence in the very near future.