Egypt

INTERNET DOMAINS AND TRADEMARKS

A trademark is a sign that identifies the services and/or goods of a certain enterprise and distinguishes them from the services or goods of the competitors of such enterprise. According to the international treaties and the Egyptian laws, trademarks must be distinctive and not be deceptive in order to be registerable.

There are a number of international treaties that mainly govern (i) the general standards of trademarks protection to be provided by the contracting states thereof (the “General Standards”); (ii) the international registration systems for obtaining protection of trademarks (the “International Registration Systems”); (iii) the international classification systems of trademarks (the “Classification Systems”); and (iv) the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights.

The General Standards are governed by (i) Paris Convention1; (ii) Trademark Law Treaty (“TLT”)2; (iii) Singapore Treaty3; and (iv) Nairobi Treaty4. In this regard, Egypt is a contracting state to Paris Convention, TLT and Nairobi Treaty. However, Egypt has not acceded to Singapore Treaty yet. In this regard, it is to be noted that Egypt made no declarations and/or reservation on TLT or Nairobi Treaty. However, Egypt declared itself as being not bound by the provisions of Article 28 (1) of Paris Convention concerning the competence of the International Court of Justice over any dispute between two or more contracting states concerning the interpretation or application of Paris Convention.

The International Registration Systems are governed by Madrid Agreement, which was entered into by Egypt on July 1, 1951, and the Madrid Protocol related thereto, which was entered into by Egypt on September 3, 2009.

The Classification Systems are governed by (i) Nice Agreement concerning the international classification services and goods for the purpose of the registration of marks (the “Nice Agreement”); and (ii) Vienna Agreement establishing an international classification of the figurative elements of marks (the “Vienna Agreement”). In this regard, Egypt is only bound by the provisions of the Nice Agreement. However, Egypt has not acceded to the Vienna Agreement yet.

The trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights are mainly governed by the TRIPS Agreement, which is a part of the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization. The TRIPS Agreement defines the types of signs that are eligible for protection as a trademark or service mark and the minimum rights to be acquired by their owners. Marks that have become well-known in a particular country shall attach additional protection. In addition, the TRIPS Agreement lays down a number of obligations with regard to the use of trademarks and service marks, their term of protection, and their licensing or assignment. Egypt is a contracting state to the TRIPS Agreement and is not exempted from the application of any of the provisions thereof.

Given that the websites are accessible from all over the world, the domain names have acquired a significant non-traditional role in locating and identifying business, services and/or goods of enterprises, which a function conventionally served by trademarks. However, due to the modernity of the use of domain names, there is a lack of harmonization between the international treaties and the national laws that govern the domain name system and trademarks, which lack results in a number of infringements of trademarks such as the registration of a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to an existing trademark or services mark. To mitigate these infringements, some companies simply purchase the domain names that are identical to the trademarks or services marks owned thereby. However, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (the “ICANN”), which has the responsibility for the IP address space allocation and the management of the Domain Names System, has adopted the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “UDRP”) based on recommendation from the World Intellectual Property Organization (the “WIPO”) in consultations with public and private sectors and the Internet community. In this regard, the UDRP is designated to resolve conflicts in all open generic Top Level Domain Names (“gTLDs”), between domain names and trademarks. According to the UDRP, a trademark holder may challenge the registration of any domain name that is (i) being used in bad faith; and (ii) identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or services mark in which such trademark holder has rights.

SOFTWARE AND BUSINESS METHODS

Business methods are basically a series of processes that end up in a certain service or product. In this regard, business methods include processes related to e-commerce, the Internet and data processing involving financial services, electronic sales, advertising methods, and other such business or management practices.

Protection of business methods will require differentiating between patents and copyrights, from a legal aspect, which requires defining each type of protection separately as follows:

Patents are one of the oldest forms of intellectual property rights that has an exclusive right granted to an inventor for the protection of an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new and inventive way of doing something, or offers a new and inventive technical solution for doing something. The protection is granted for a limited time, generally twenty (20) years. Patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed, sold or imported without the consent of the holder of the patent rights. All patent holders are obliged, in return for patent protection, to publicly disclose information on their invention in order to enrich the total body of technical knowledge in the world. In most of the civil law system countries, including, inter alia, most of the European countries and Egypt, business methods may not be patented. However, in most of the common law system countries, business methods are protected under the patent system.

Copyright is a legal term describing an exclusive right that is granted to an author over the literary and/or artistic works. The author is also granted a set of financial and moral rights including, inter alia, performing artists and broadcasting or publishing works, which rights called “related rights” that provide protection to the author or the assignee thereof against unauthorized copying or piracy. Copyright and related rights protection extend to eligible digital content regardless of the form in which it exists or the media on which it is shown. Information that is protected by copyright and related rights in analog form continues to be protected when transformed into digital form. It is likely that copyright and related rights holders will increasingly rely on licensing and contracts, together with copyright law to manage their intellectual property rights. Traditionally, intellectual property rights in software have been proprietary and protected by copyright in most of the civil law countries, including Egypt; however, software is patentable under most of the patent systems. On the other hand, the open source movement in the software industry has adopted a different position towards asserting intellectual property rights in software. Open source refers to the development of software whose source code is publicly available in conformity with the certification standard issued by the Open Source Initiative (“OSI”). Some such software is distributed under the General Public License (“GPL”), which grants licensees the freedom to reproduce the software under GPL conditions. Users of such software are bound by the GPL. Another licensing model is the Creative Commons (“CC”) (http://creativecommons.org/). In 2002, CC released a set of copyright licenses free for public use that rely upon copyright for their enforcement like the GPL. National copyright and related rights laws set out exceptions and limitations in order to maintain the balance between protecting creators‟ property rights and their exclusive rights under the “three-step test”. As set out in the Berne Convention and TRIPS Agreement, where Egypt is a member of both, exceptions are permitted “in certain special cases” that “do not conflict with a normal exploitation” of the work and “do not unreasonably prejudice the copyright holder‟s legitimate interests.” The WIPO Copyright Treaty (“WCT”) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (“WPPT”), collectively the “WIPO Internet Treaties”, to which treaties Egypt is a contracting state, provide flexibility to individual countries to develop exceptions and limitations that are appropriate to their particular circumstances.

DATABASE

The Egyptian law does not define the database precisely nor limit the scope of defining database, but widens the scope of defining a database to the extent that it considers a database as having a full right of copyright in comparison with computer programs and other material that can be fully copyrighted. The duration of licensing copyrights for databases is 20 (twenty) years.

The Egyptian law does not require a certain structure or form, whether readable on a computer system or otherwise.

The author literary rights may not be waived by the creator of the database which adds additional protection to the creator and his successors according to the Egyptian law.