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背景知识产权和前景知识产权

时间:2021-04-06

背景知识产权和前景知识产权
 
Background IP and Foreground IP 背景知识产权和前景知识产权:定义、使用范围和规则
在商业交易中,尤其是高科技行业,合同双方常常专注于知识产权权利归属问题、互不相让。讨论的核心在于买方在本次交易中到底能获得多少知识产权权利/许可,大多数时候,作为买方,只会在使用产品必须的范围内获得专利许可。然而,近年来,买方所提供的标准合同文本,有扩张其知识产权权利的趋势。
 
In commercial transactions, especially high-tech commercial transactions, there is usually a section of the parties’ contract devoted to what IP rights the buyer obtains in the deal. Most of the time, the rights are limited to use of the IP in the product, as the product is intended to be used. However, standard contracts from buyers are increasingly trying to expand their rights.
 
合作开始前,双方会以自己原本拥有的知识产权作为筹码进行谈判。此时,生产方至少拥有两方面的知识产权:他获得授权可以使用的IP,以及他自己独立开发获得的IP。有时候,买方也会拥有一些与实现产品技术方案相关的知识产权。所有这些可被统称为“背景知识产权”,即Background Intellectual Property。
 
To begin with, the parties will come to the bargaining table with their own IP. At the very least, the manufacturer will have IP it can use, and/or has independently developed. Sometimes the buyer will have its own IP often related to implementing its product specifications. This is known as “Background Intellectual Property,” or “Background IP.”
 
以此为出发点,双方会对彼此拥有的背景知识产权的使用和归属问题进行谈判。通常来说,任何一方都不会将自己的背景知识产权转让给对方。买方会将背景知识产权部分授权给生产方使用,以便生产方生产所需产品,而生产方也只会在为实现产品的使用功能所必需的范围内,将自己的背景知识产权授予给买方有限使用。
 
From this starting point, the parties will negotiate what rights they have to this Background IP. Usually, neither party gives the other party any of its Background IP. The manufacturer has limited use of the buyer’s Background IP to make the buyer’s product, and the buyer has limited use of the manufacturer’s Background IP only to the extent the use is connected with the product being used as intended. That’s it.
 
然而,有的时候,买方会希望获得生产方的背景IP, 以便在合同结束后依然能够由自己合法生产所需产品。在IP托管协议中,这属于较为“粗糙”的一种规避伎俩。有时候,买方还会在合同中加入条款,确保自己有权获得衍生作品的知识产权权利。生产方应当对这些条款保持警惕。这些知识产权规定超出了使用产品所需要的范围。总而言之,如果一个买家在使用产品所必需的范围之外,希望获得知识产权权利,那么他必须为此支付额外的费用。
 
Sometimes though, the buyer will want the right to the manufacturer’s Background IP to manufacture the product itself upon termination of the contract. This is a very rough end-run around an IP Escrow Agreement. Also, buyers may insert language into the contract giving it rights to create derivative works of the IP. Manufacturers should be vigilant to protect against giving rights such as these away. These IP rights are in addition to the intended use of the product. Generally, if a buyer wants rights to IP that are in addition to the intended use of the product, they must pay a premium for these.
 
一旦合同双方开始业务合作,新的智力成果就会产生。例如:1)生产方改进了产品;2)买方与生产方签订了创造新产品的合同,尤其是对于买方,以及/或者3)生产方恰好拥有一项基础性产品,可被适用于买方的技术方案。这些在双方开始业务合作以后而诞生出的新的智力成果,就是我们所称的“前景知识产权”,即Foreground IP。
 
Once the parties start doing business together, IP can be created. For example, 1) the manufacturer may improve the product over time, 2) the buyer may contract with the manufacturer to create something new, specifically for the buyer, and/or 3) a manufacturer may have a base product that it adapts or customizes to the buyer’s specifications. This creation of new IP after the parties begin trading is what is referred to as “Foreground Intellectual Property,” or “Foreground IP.”
 
买方是否有权在使用产品所必须的范围之外使用知识产权,由他一开始出价所购买的对象所决定。这个问题可以归结为:买方是否为无限制使用IP的权利支付了相应对价?这不是一个很容易可以得到答案的问题,所以,在合同中,这些内容必须被清楚而明确的规定下来。
 
Whether a buyer is entitled to use the Foreground IP outside of the intended use of the products depends on what is being purchased. It boils down to this – Is the buyer paying for the unrestricted rights to the IP? That is not often easy to answer, and that is why the contract has to clearly state these rights.
 
我们快速浏览一下三种情况:1)生产方必须慎重考虑涉及到前景知识产权的合同,因为在合同期间,任何生产方对基础产品所作的改进,都可能会落入“前景知识产权”的宽泛范围之中。如果生产方已经将前景知识产权权利转让给买方,那么除了买方以外,生产方再也无法将改进后的产品销售给任何其他人。同时,如果有不止一家买方拥有这项改进知识产权,那么生产方可能会被视作违约——无论生产方是否实际改进了基础产品。相应的,生产方必须非常小心谨慎的去定义“前景知识产权”的范围,并且适当限制前景IP的转让自由度。
 
Let’s quickly look at the 3 scenarios, above. 1) The manufacturer has to really be careful about its contracts related to Foreground IP, because any manufacturer improvement to a base product during the term of the contract could fall under a broad definition of “Foreground IP.” If the manufacturer has transferred the rights to Foreground IP to its buyer, it may not be able to sell its improved base product to anyone except the buyer. Also, if more than one buyer has the same Foreground IP rights, then the manufacturer could be in breach of contract whenever it improves its base product. Accordingly, manufacturers must be very careful about the breadth of the definition of “Foreground IP,” and limit the transfer of it where appropriate.
 
2)第二种情况之中,由生产方设计并生产为买方量身定制的产品,那么生产方很有可能会希望获得额外的报酬,因为他极有可能必须同时将前景IP无限制的销售出去。如果买方不愿意支付这笔费用,那么合同中必须明确阐明,生产方可以将合作过程中所产生的前景IP自由销售给任意第三方。
 
2) In the second scenario where a custom product is designed and produced by the manufacturer for the buyer, the manufacturer will likely want to charge a premium for this work because it is likely selling unrestricted Foreground IP rights. If the buyer does not want to pay the premium, the contract needs to clearly state that the manufacturer is free to sell products that incorporate the Foreground IP to third parties.
 
3)最后,也是最困难的一种情况是,生产方原有的基础产品恰好完全满足买方的需求。如果买方告诉了生产方如何将该基础产品适用到买方所需的技术方案中,那么买方一定不希望生产方将包含有该项知识产权的产品再销售给任何第三方,尤其是买方的竞争对手。既然如此,那么只能由买方拥有前景知识产权。然而,如果生产方是自主找到适用其基础产品的方法的,并且并没有就这部分适用方面的创新向买方收取费用,那么生产方应当拥有此种前景知识产权。相反,如果生产方收取了这部分的费用,那么买方就能有足够理由认为他已购买了针对前景知识产权的无限制使用权利。
 
3) Finally, the most difficult issue is where the manufacturer’s base product is specifically adapted for the buyer’s needs. If a buyer shows the manufacturer how to adapt the manufacturer’s base product to the buyer’s specifications, the buyer will not want the manufacturer using that IP in a product it sells to anyone else, especially a competitor of the buyer. As such, the buyer should own the Foreground IP. However, if the manufacturer is the party that figures out how to adapt its base product, and does not charge the buyer for the adaptation, then the manufacturer should own the Foreground IP. Conversely, if the manufacturer does charge the buyer for the adaptation, the buyer has a good argument that it has purchased the unrestricted rights to that Foreground IP.
 
在所有这三种情况之中,矛盾都存在于:买方是否购买了背景IP(对于背景IP,买方获得无限制权利的理由比较薄弱)以及前景IP(对于前景IP,买方获得无限制权利的理由更为充分)。生产方会更多的考虑他的基础产品或者背景IP所能创造的价值。所以,对于生产方而言,产品使用所必需范围以外的知识产权不可被转让。相反的,买方则认为,将基础产品适用到买方需求过程中所利用的IP才是真正的价值所在。所以,对于买方而言,支付的对价大部分是针对前景IP,认为买方已经购买了对前景IP的无限制权利。
 
In all three of these scenarios the conflict is whether the buyer is buying the Background IP (for which it has little grounds for unlimited title) versus the Foreground IP (for which it has better grounds for unlimited title). The manufacturer will likely think its base product, or Background IP, is what creates value. Thus, to the manufacturer no IP rights outside of the intended use of the product are transferred. Conversely, the buyer may believe that the real value is the IP used in adapting the base product to the buyer’s needs. Thus, to the buyer since the price is largely for the Foreground IP, the buyer has bought the unlimited rights to the Foreground IP.
 
例如,我代表一个客户,我们生产坚固耐用、高科技的设备,这些设备会被用于火车、公交、城市公共设施以及电子工厂里的电子组件中。客户常常因为遇到困难的计算机问题而来找我们。我的客户是少数几家了解如何将包含在产品内的解决方案落实到实处以解决复杂外部环境问题的公司中的一家。现在,我的客户认为,产品的真正价值在于里面包含的基础产品。为客户的需求进行定制看起来就像是蛋糕上的奶油。然而,在客户的想法中,他们认为真正的价值在于对基础产品的定制行为。并且希望拥有这类前景IP,完整拥有!
 
For example, I represent a client that manufactures sturdy, high-tech equipment that can be used in the electrical components of trains, buses, city infrastructure and electrical plants. Its customers come to it with difficult computing problems. My client is one of only a handful of companies that know how to implement these solutions in a product strong enough to handle some rough conditions. Now, in my client’s mind, the real value in the product is the base product. Customization to fit the customer’s needs is just the icing on the cake. However, in the customer’s mind, it could be that it sees the real value as the customization of the base product, and wants to own that Foreground IP, outright.
 
既然如此,当双方摊牌各自在交易中的原则底线时,谈判就会陷入僵局。因此这都只能是个案分析。商务和法律团队必须时刻关注合同中的相关条文,同时,法律团队必须能够准确把握商务团队的意愿,以确保合同可以准确实现双方的合作意图。一个小错误就可能导致一场异常昂贵的IP纷争。所以,要么在谈判时对这些条款保持慎重,要么下次就只能法庭见了。
 
As such, negotiations can hit a snag while the parties reassess their principle concepts of the deal. This must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. The business and legal teams must watch out for these issues in the fine print of the contract, and legal must confirm the business team’s intentions to make sure that the contract accurately captures the intent of the parties. Make a mistake, and an expensive IP dispute could erupt. So keep your eye on these principles during negotiation, or the next time you see them could be in litigation.
 
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