Intellectual Property Rights: An Outline

iprProperty emanates from the concept of ownership and possession. It is important as it has a great value. Property is also referred to as a bundle of legal rights but does not have any specific definition. Many versions are there from scientists, lawyers, philosophers, academicians etc for defining the term. What is central to the concept of property is not just the right to possess but also its usage and the human to human and human to object relationship.

Once the rights are vested a message is conveyed that the owner can use the thing for the concerned purpose with or without time constraint. On the other hand it also means that all the other persons are forbidden to use the thing as long as the legal extent prevails. In short a vested right for one is a prohibitory right for the other. Property has a huge economic significance as it is always accompanied by a price tag! Each one of the property rights are designed and defined in a way to compliment the other property rights.

The concept of property can be broadly classified as tangible and intangible. The tangible property comprises of real and personal (moveable) property like house, land, jewellery etc whose physical possession can literally be felt. On the other hand the intangible property or incorporeal property is the one which literally cannot be touched and has no physical existence as in trade secrets, patents, copyrights, and trademarks, stocks; bonds etc. The ownership of both these kinds of property is transferable through various legalised procedures like licensing, agreement etc.

The most sought after concept amongst the intangible property is that of the Intellectual Property (IP). Human mind has a unique capacity to weave various thoughts and come up with unique ideas which has in turn made the world into an intellectual platform. Intellectual property refers to the creation of the human mind. Unlike tangible property IP insists on novelty/ originality to get protected, though the degrees of these two factors vary on case to case basis. Patents, Copyrights and neighbouring rights, Trade or service marks, Designs, Traditional Knowledge, Geographical Indicators, Protection of Plant Varieties, and Lay out designs for Integrated Circuits are the various forms of intellectual property.

IP has tremendous contribution to national and state economies. Many people across the world are not aware of the fact that they own an IP, its importance and the need to protect it. This led to the concept of Intellectual property rights (IPR).

IP protection has certain advantages like: competitiveness, growth, innovation, entrepreneurship, incentivising the entrepreneurs (as investment comes with huge risk), employment generation, increase in research and development work, safeguarding farmer’s rights, protection of indigenous knowledge, protection of geographical indicators etc. Such protection makes the customer confident about the quality and safety of the products and enables them to make an educated choice. It also prevents the devaluation of the product; it also acts a system for check and balance by preventing theft, offering moral protection, safeguarding the reputation of the product (as in trademarks) and the author (as in copyrights).

With the mobilisation of world economies there has been a wave of entrepreneurship thus making it essential for the start-up companies to be aware of securing their intellectual property for sound business. Primarily it is very important for a company in its infancy to realise what is their product about? Under what category of IP can the product be classified, and to what extent the product can be disclosed in order to prevent any legal implication while securing the protection. It is also important for these companies to analyse if at all the launch of their product or method would give them enough commercial returns? If so then would it be enough to go ahead with it in the long run?

This analysis is important more so when the decision to publicly disclose the product does the rounds. It is always important to consult an IPR expert to know whether the product, the work (in case of copyrights), the trademark, design or any other such IP products are liable for protection or not. Also the companies need to be conscious of maintaining the continuity in the protection of their Intellectual property right by paying the annual maintenance fee.

Intellectual Property protection has certain compatibility issues as the law varies from one country to the other. Bodies like WTO though TRIPS ensure that the member states come on a common platform for uniformity in passing a legislature but, it is always the national law which prevails (when required) over any international treaty as it is indigenous to the people of that particular country and the national law is framed keeping in mind the interests and requirement of the locals.

There is a need for holistic approach as intellectual property system does not ensure absolute rights and is time bound. Sometimes there is a conflict between the IPR, state law, the freedom of expression and other rights of the citizen. The decision to move for product patenting by India, fair use provisions in copyrights are some of the examples which have resolved the problems related to Intellectual property to a large extent. It is important to consider the interest of the IP owner, the customer and the state with regards to Intellectual property. Striking a right balance between the creator and the public for the larger interest of the economy and society will facilitate the growth of intellectual property in the years to come.

About This Author

Ms. S.L. Soujanya is a registered Patent agent with an academic background in Pharmaceutical sciences. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from the Osmania University, Hyderabad and holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Intellectual Property Rights Law from NLSIU, Bangalore.

Post A Reply