What is Intellectual Property (IP)?
In today’s world, knowledge and ideas have become increasingly important parts of trade as most of the value of modern products such as medicines or technology lies in the amount of invention, innovation, research, design and testing involved.
Intellectual property (IP) refers to the creations of the human mind from inventions to literary and artistic works, names and symbols to images and designs used in commerce.
Intellectual property can be divided into two categories namely, (i) Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and (ii)Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, plays, films, musical works, paintings, photographs etc.
The most noticeable difference between intellectual property and other forms of property, is that intellectual property is intangible, that is, it cannot be defined or identified by its own physical parameters. Generally, it encompasses four different types of intangible property namely: copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets, which collectively are referred to as “intellectual property.”
What are Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)?
Movies, music, books, computer software, etc., are bought and sold because of the information and creativity they contain, not usually because of the plastic, metal or paper used to make them. Therefore, creators are given the right to prevent others from using their inventions or designs. These rights are known as Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
Intellectual property rights protect the interests of creators by giving them property rights over their creations and also enable them to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. Essentially, these rights can be viewed like any other property right, wherein they allow the creators of IP to benefit from their work or from their investment in a creation by giving them control over how their property is used.
Copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary, musical, cinematographic and artistic works. This term encompasses diverse forms of creativity, such as books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.
The basic principle on which copyright rests is that creativity needs to be rewarded like manual work and individuals who produce intellectual property should be able to live by their creative skills and efforts.
Trademarks are used to designate the source or origin of products and it can be “any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof” that aims at distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises.
A trade mark, popularly known as brand name in layman’s language, provides protection to the owner of the mark by ensuring the exclusive right to use it or to authorize another to use the same in return for payment.
A patent is an official document given to an inventor by the government, allowing him to exclude anyone else from commercially exploiting his invention for a limited period, that is, it is an exclusive right granted for an invention. Patent enables the inventor to control how or whether the invention can be used by others and can also set the price of the patented products.
A trade secret is any kind of information that is secret or confidential and not generally known in the relevant industry giving the owner an advantage over competitors. Examples of trade secrets include formulas, patterns, methods, programs, techniques, processes or compilations of information that provide one’s business with a competitive advantage. Generally, it can be stated that any information that can be used in the operation of a business and that is sufficiently valuable to afford an actual or potential economic advantage over others is a trade secret.
How did it come about?
Towards the 19th century, the need for international protection of intellectual property became evident when foreign exhibitors refused to attend the International Exhibition of Inventions in Vienna in 1873 because they were afraid their ideas would be stolen and exploited commercially in other countries.
The year 1883 marked the origin of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the first major international treaty designed to help the people of one country obtain protection in other countries for their intellectual creations in the form of industrial property rights, known as inventions (patents), trademarks and industrial designs. The Paris Convention entered into force in 1884 with 14 member States, which set up an International Bureau to carry out administrative tasks.
In the year 1886, copyright also entered the international arena with the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works to help nationals of its member States obtain international protection of their right to control, and receive payment for, the use of their creative works such as novels, short stories, poems, plays; songs, operas, musicals, sonatas; and drawings, paintings, sculptures, architectural works.
In 1893, these two united to form an international organization called the United International Bureau for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI) which was the predecessor of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
In 1970, BIPRI turned into the World Intellectual Property Organization, which is referred to as WIPO. WIPO is a specialized agency of the United Nations, established by the WIPO Convention in 1967. It is dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property (IP) system, which rewards creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development while safeguarding the public interest. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.
WIPO expanded its role and further demonstrated the importance of intellectual property rights in 1996 by entering into a cooperation agreement with the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, 1967) gives the following list of the subject matter protected by intellectual property rights:
- literary, artistic and scientific works;
- performances of performing artists, phonograms, and broadcasts;
- inventions in all fields of human endeavor;
- scientific discoveries;
- industrial designs;
- trademarks, service marks, and commercial names and designations;
- protection against unfair competition; and
“all other rights resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields.”
Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement
With the establishment of the world trade Organization (WTO), the importance and role of the intellectual property protections crystallized in the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Systems (TRIPS) Agreement. The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), 1995 is an international agreement, among the member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It came into effect on 1 January 1995 and is to date the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property.
The TRIPS Agreement encompasses, in principle, all forms of intellectual property and aims at strengthening the standards of protection and providing effective enforcement at both national and international levels.