The field of intellectual property law in Israel is very diverse and includes protection of a wide range of assets. In order to protect one’s intellectual assets properly – be it brands, industrial designs, artistic works, etc. – a deep familiarity with the local law is crucial. In this article, Adv. Tal Ofir from our firm will introduce some unique features of the Israeli law in this regards, and explain the differences between the subfields of IP in Israel.
Our law firm is based in Israel and specializes in intellectual property. We provide comprehensive legal services to our Israeli and international clients, including local and international registration of trademarks and designs, portfolio management and legal protection for IP assets.
What is Unique About Israeli IP?
How does the Israeli IP system operate? We are often asked about the topic by our clients from abroad, and decided to create this article, in order to briefly review the intellectual property law in Israel. One must bear in mind that intellectual property covers a wide range of legal protections given to different assets, from artistic works to inventions, industrial designs and brands. Therefore, it is important to focus on each of these protections separately.
The Israeli intellectual property law is advanced and continues on becoming more and more developed. Recent amendments of the Israeli Designs Law and the Israeli Copyright Law, for instance, introduced many new legal features to these fields. There is a reason why Israel is internationally known as a leading high-tech force, and it has a lot to do with the fact that the local IP system is as advanced as in other western countries.
Yet, like any other IP system, the Israeli one has its unique features. For instance, there are particular legal mechanisms that enable to protect marks that are not registered as trademarks in Israel, or unregistered designs. Therefore, in order to properly register and protect intellectual assets in Israel, a deep knowledge and understanding of the local legislation and case law is crucial. Below we will briefly review some of the main sources of IP in Israel, focusing on trademark law, design law and copyright law.
Trademark Law in Israel
Trademark is a legal protection granted to businesses and other entities’ brand names, logos, slogans, etc. The Israeli law’s definition of marks that can generally be protected is broad and includes “letters, numerals, words, devices or other signs or the combinations thereof, whether two-dimensional or three-dimensionals”. This broad definition allows to register different assets of the kind as trademarks, in order to protect a business’ reputation.
There are various statutory and regulatory sources as a part of the Israeli trademark law. The main trademark statutory source in Israel is the Trademarks Ordinance. The ordinance includes the aforementioned definition of a mark, as well as the requirements for qualifications of marks to be registered as trademarks in Israel.
There are further important statutory and regulatory sources, such as the Trademark Regulations. The regulations set the legal procedures in the court of the Israel Patent Office. The regulations further cover other important topics, such as the Israeli classification system (which is based on the Nice Agreement) and the registration fees in the patent office’s trademark department. You can find more information about the Israeli trademark legislation in an additional article which was published on our website.
What Protection is Available to Unregistered Marks?
The Israeli law provides limited protection to unregistered marks. The main protection is the tort of ‘passing off’, based on the Israeli Commercial Torts Law. It should be stressed that passing off lawsuits are usually challenging, compared to trademark infringement lawsuits. Therefore it is highly recommended to register trademarks in Israel in order to ensure that the legal protection would eventually be given to the marks.
Protection may be given to unregistered marks, should they be recognized as well-known trademarks. However, it is not always easy to conclude whether a mark would be recognized as such. The law requires that a mark will be proven to be well-known in Israel. Otherwise, and even if it is recognized elsewhere, it won’t gain protection in Israel, at least as a well-known trademark. We elaborated on this important topic here.
Design Law in Israel
Until recently, the design law system in Israel was based on old legislation from the days of the British Mandate, before the state of Israel was established. In 2017, the new Israeli Designs Law was introduced, in order to provide an improved protection to industrial designs. The new law is very modern, and aims to provide the necessary legal tools needed by modern designers and encourage them to protect their designs legally.
The new law provides various new features that did not exist previously. One of the most advanced new features is the ability to protect unregistered designs. This protection applies without any registration mandate, though it requires that the design would meet the qualification criteria set under the law, mainly novelty and an individual character. It is also valid for a limited amount of time – 3 years, compared to a maximum period of 25 years for registered designs.
In addition to the new protection for unregistered designs, the new law provides a “grace period” in which it is possible to register designs that have been published. The period lasts for 12 months from the publication of the design. It helps designers to decide whether to register their designs after they have had a chance to check the demand for it.
Another important feature of the new law is the expansion of protection that is granted under it. While the previous law protected only tangible assets (“objects”), the new law’s definition of assets that can be protected applies for intangible assets as well (“products”). This allows registration of fonts, icons, screen displays, etc., apart from traditional industrial designs. Furthermore, it is now possible to register international designs. For more information about it, you can read this article.
Copyright Law in Israel
Similarly to the Israeli design law, copyright law in Israel has gone through some dramatic developments in the past decade. Here too, the field was based on an old legislation that existed long before most of the modern forms of creative works (such as computer games, television programs, etc.). A new Copyright law was introduced in 2008, and changed the field completely, as it modified copyright protection to the needs of contemporary cretors.
Similarly to copyright legislation in other western countries, the Israeli law grants the owners of creative works a list of actions they are entitled to perform exclusively. Those actions include copying, distribution, broadcasting, renting and transferring the works to others. The law also protects the right to make derivative works, namely works that are based on the original work. For instance, translation of a book. Another important right is the moral right, which means the right to be credited and the duty not to use a work in a way that harms the creator’s reputation.
Avoidance from conducting any of the above actions without the creator’s consent, may be considered as copyright infringement and base grounds for legal actions. However, the law provides a list of defenses against copyright infringement claims. One of those defenses is the fair use defense. Although it was borrowed from the American fair use doctrine, the Israeli fair use is different from the American one. We elaborated on it and the topic in general here.
For more questions or assistance regarding intellectual property law in Israel,our lawyers are available for you. Our intellectual property firm has extensive experience in representing Israeli and international clients in various IP matters, in subfields such as copyright law, trademark law and design law.