Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protects the most valued of all creations — the human mind. The human mind invents, creates, and develops a new product. IPR protects the creator’s interests and sees to it that they get exclusive rights over their products and receive the benefit from their product. The product can be anything from a new invention to a literary work or even symbols.
IPR is necessary for the protection of the products and thus help in a country’s economic growth while striking a balance between private and public interests.
Intellectual property rights have been around since medieval times. Following are the primary laws and agreements that have established the basis of IPR.
- The Stature of Monopolies (1623) is seen as the first law on patents. The act gave the inventor exclusive control over an invention created by him, for 14 years.
- The Statute of Anne (1710) gave the first copyright law. This act granted a 14-year renewal of the exclusive rights after fulfilling certain conditions.
- The Paris Convention (1883) was a first intervention to ensure that the works are protected in other countries.
- The Berne Convention (1886) provided minimum protection and special provisions to works of writers, musicians, painters, and many other professions.
- The Madrid Agreement (1891) provided for an international registration that can be used for the broader protection of the trademark.
- The United International Bureaux for the protection of Intellectual Property (1883) was formed by the merging of the Paris and the Berne Conventions.
Types of Intellectual Property Rights
Broadly, IPRs can be categorised into the following:
- Industrial Property involves trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs.
- Copyright involves the print media, music, motion pictures, as well as architectural designs, among others.
Let us see the individual types one by one.
It is a unique sign that helps us to identify a product. Trademarks are useful as they prevent counterfeiting. Furthermore, trademarks promote trade activities and are legally protected all over the world. They can include symbols, drawings, 3D images, as well as holograms and other non-visible signs. A trademark is granted to such products that qualify for specific criteria. ISO norms are such internationally accepted standards. Trademarks or logos can be registered to a national or a regional office. World Intellectual Property Organisation maintains an international system to prevent duplication of trademarks.
A product’s appeal is its external or aesthetic features such as design, texture, appearance, etc. This is what industrial design is all about. Industrial designs can be applied to a wide variety of products ranging from housewares and jewellery to electrical appliances and luxury goods. For protection, an industrial design must be original and non-functional, which means that industrial design does not cover the technical functionalities of the product that are protected by a patent.
Industrial designs are governed by the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs and are generally country-specific.
A geographical indication is used to denote that the product is from a particular region. Usually, it is used for agricultural products that have properties specific to the region such as the soil and climate. For example, Kandhamal Haldi from Odisha recently got a GI tag. Similar examples include Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Italy or the Tuscany olive oil, etc.
Apart from agriculture, GI tags are used in a variety of products such as handicrafts, drinks and others.
Copyrights and related rights
Copyright protects the literary works of authors and artists. Whereas, related rights is an associated field that grants rights similar to that of copyright, albeit for a limited duration. The beneficiaries of the later include actors and musicians, phonogram producers and broadcasting organisations. Copyright covers a vast field that includes, but is not limited to, novels, newspapers, databases, technical drawings, choreography architecture, and others.
Moreover, a copyright gives the owner of the work to allow or prohibit its reproduction in all forms, its broadcasting or translation as well as its adaption to other types.
Patents are exclusive rights granted to an invention that provides an innovative solution to a problem or does something in a new way. They are granted for 20 years. A patented product cannot be made commercially, or sold, used and distributed without the owner’s confirmation. Patents are legally enforced and can be declared invalid by the courts.
The owner can grant permission for the use of the product on some mutually agreed terms and can even sell the rights.
In return for patent protection, the information has to be publicly disclosed. Thus, patents not only protects the invention but also inspires the future generation of scientists and researchers who can use the information as a base for future research and development.
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Justification and philosophical basis of IPR
Intellectual Property Rights are justified based on justice, proper incentives, and natural rights. The philosophical discussions on IPR take two forms: Deontological and Consequentialist discussion.
Deontological arguments see the rightness or wrongness of the action as a whole rather than judging the consequences of the action. Deontological discussions on IPR are based on certain presuppositions or a priori. John Locke’s argument of ‘natural rights’ can be applied to intellectual property as well. Locke brilliantly argued that each person owns their produce. Also, a precondition for production is that there should be exclusive ownership over the resource.
On the other hand, Hegel argued that to be considered as an individual, a person must have a claim over the tangible as well as intangible objects around the world. Intellectual property falls under the later which, for Hegel, is an extension of the person’s personality.
This discussion makes a connection between Intellectual Property (IP) and creativity. The proponents argue that an absence of IP hampers creativity. However, this argument is not universal and is somewhat local and country-specific. In Imperial China, for example, there were technological advancements without any IP law.
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Former Senior Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant has a keen interest in social issues and international relations.