TODAY -

What is Intellectual Property Right (IPR) ?

Dr Dipak Nath *



Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. There are many types of intellectual property, and some countries recognize more than others.

The most well known types are copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets. Early precursors to some types of intellectual property existed in societies such as Ancient Rome, but the modern concept of intellectual property developed in England in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The term "intellectual property" began to be used in the 19th century, though it was not until the late 20th century that intellectual property became commonplace in the majority of the world's legal systems.

The main purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage the creation of a wide variety of intellectual goods. To achieve this, the law gives people and businesses property rights to the information and intellectual goods they create, usually for a limited period of time. This gives economic incentive for their creation, because it allows people to profit from the information and intellectual goods they create.

These economic incentives are expected to stimulate innovation and contribute to the technological progress of countries, which depends on the extent of protection granted to innovators. Intellectual property rights include patents, copyright, industrial design rights, trademarks, plant variety rights, trade dress, geographical indications and in some jurisdictions trade secrets.

Patents- A patent is a form of right granted by the government to an inventor or their successor-in-title, giving the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, and importing an invention for a limited period of time, in exchange for the public disclosure of the invention.

An invention is a solution to a specific technological problem, which may be a product or a process and generally has to fulfil three main requirements: it has to be new, not obvious and there needs to be an industrial applicability. To enrich the body of knowledge and stimulate innovation, it is an obligation for patent owners to disclose valuable information about their inventions to the public.

Copyright- A copyright gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time. Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms, or "works". Copyright does not cover ideas and information themselves, only the form or manner in which they are expressed.

Industrial design rights- An industrial design right (sometimes called "design right" or design patent) protects the visual design of objects that are not purely utilitarian. An industrial design consists of the creation of a shape, configuration or composition of pattern or color, or combination of pattern and color in three-dimensional form containing aesthetic value.

An industrial design can be a two- or three-dimensional pattern used to produce a product, industrial commodity or handicraft. Generally speaking, it is what makes a product look appealing, and as such, it increases the commercial value of goods.

Plant variety rights- Plant breeders' rights or plant variety rights are the rights to commercially use a new variety of a plant. The variety must amongst others be novel and distinct and for registration the evaluation of propagating material of the variety is considered.

Trademarks- A trademark is a recognizable sign, design or expression which distinguishes products or services of a particular trader from similar products or services of other traders.

Trade dress- Trade dress is a legal term of art that generally refers to characteristics of the visual and aesthetic appearance of a product or its packaging (or even the design of a building) that signify the source of the product to consumers.

Trade secrets- A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors and customers. There is no formal government protection granted; each business must take measures to guard its own trade secrets (e.g., Formula of its soft drinks is a trade secret for Coca-Cola)

Registering and enforcing intellectual property rights in India: To enjoy most types of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in India, we should register them. For patents, individual registrations must be made in India, but for rights other than industrial designs one can apply under the terms of the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which is usually easier and quicker. For trademarks, one should register them within India, either through the domestic trade mark system or under the Madrid system. For copyright, no registration is required but registering copyrights with the copyright authorities is advisable.

'Priority rights' under the Paris Convention can help in the local registration of trademarks, designs and patents by allowing rights previously registered elsewhere to become effective in India, if filed within a time limit. IPR can be enforced by bringing actions to the civil courts or through criminal prosecution. India's IP laws set out procedures for both civil and criminal proceedings, as does the Competition Act. Criminal proceedings do not apply to patent and design infringements.

A disadvantage of civil litigation is that one can unlikely to recover large damages, and punitive damages against an infringer are rare. However, if anyone have an identified infringer, it may be advisable to launch civil litigation, because if an interim injunction is granted the infringement can be halted pending the outcome of the case.

Damages are routinely awarded in cases of copyright piracy and trade mark infringement (which come under criminal litigation); less so in patent cases. As in other countries, the Indian Government brings actions in criminal cases, although in most cases actions follow complaints to magistrates or police authorities by rights owners.

Criminal proceedings against infringers carry the prospect of much harsher remedies, including fines and imprisonment. Mediation or negotiation with an infringer can also be effective as an alternative form of dispute resolution. The Civil Procedure Code provides for a formal mediation process.

Potential problems faced in India and how to deal with them India's intellectual property legislation covers every significant aspect of the protection of IP. The regulations relating to all forms of IP have been amended or reissued in recent years, mainly in response to India's accession to the World Trade Organization in 1995.

Although Indian IP law is thorough and generally comparable with European IP laws, there are still significant concerns over IP enforcement. A major cause for concern in enforcement is bureaucratic delay, with a backlog of cases at both the civil and criminal courts. This means that cases can run for five years or more. There is also a lack of transparency, particularly at a local level.

A significant feature of the IP environment in India is the large number of small players infringing IP rights. This means that seizures tend to be small, which requires a sustained and financially draining effort in order to make an impact. The most important way to avoid problems when defending IP rights in India is to be prepared.


* Dr Dipak Nath wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Deputy Director of Extension Education, Central Agricultural University, Imphal, Manipur
This article was webcasted on August 06, 2020



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