Intellectual Property Rights

Context: Despite being actively engaged in research and new innovations, over 35% people are not aware of intellectual property rights (IPR), a latest study revealed.

About IPR

IPR provide certain exclusive rights to the inventors or creators of that property, in order to enable them to reap commercial benefits from their creative efforts or reputation. There are several types of intellectual property protection like patent, copyright, trademark, etc.

IPR is prerequisite for better identification, planning, commercialization, rendering, and thereby protection of invention or creativity.The main social purpose of protection of copyright and related rights is to encourage and reward creative work.


  • The laws and administrative procedures relating to IPR have their roots in Europe.
  • A Venetian Law of 1474 made the first methodical attempt to protect inventions in a form of patent, which allowed right to an individual for the first time.
  • The invention of the printing press and movable type by Johannes Gutenberg around the year 1450, helped in the origin of the first copyright system in the world.
  • International Intellectual Property system began with the creation of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial property in 1883 and the Berne Convention for the protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 1886. Both treaties are administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
  • Patent act in India is more than 150 years old. The first Act was in 1856, which was based on the British patent system and it has provided the patent term of 14 years followed by numerous acts and amendment.

Types of Intellectual properties

  • Copyright covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures) and architectural design. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs.

Industrial Property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications.

  • Patents: Patents are exclusive rights granted by the Government to a company/individual for an invention. Patents are time bound. For ex: In India patents are granted for a period of 20 years from the date of filing of the patent application. It is also to be noted that the patents are valid only within the territory where they have been granted. Once a patent expires, protection ends and the invention enters the public domain
  • Trademark: Trademark is a word, or symbol, or phrase, or design, or any combination of these, which identifies and distinguishes the source or origin of a product or service. Other forms of identifying features which have come to be recognised as trademarks include particular colour combinations, smells and sounds (for example, an advertisement jingle), textures, packaging, shapes, etc.The period of protection varies, but a trademark can be renewed indefinitely upon payment of the corresponding fees.
  • Design:  Design refers to the features of shape, configuration, pattern, ornamentation or composition of lines or colours applied to any article, in two or three dimensional (or both) forms. It may be applied by any industrial process or means (manual, mechanical or chemical) separately or by a combined process, which in the finished article appeals to and is judged solely by the eye. Term of protection granted is generally five years, with the possibility of further renewal, in most cases for a period of up to 15 years.
  • Geographical Indication: A geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation due to that place of origin. Most commonly, a geographical indication consists of the name of the place of origin of the goods.

Need for IPR

  • They allow creators, or owners, of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation.
  • These rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of scientific, literary or artistic productions.
  • Patents provide incentives which encourage innovation, which in turn enhances the quality of human life.
  • In return for patent protection, all patent owners are obliged to publicly disclose information on their inventions in order to enrich the total body of technical knowledge in the world. This ever increasing body of public knowledge promotes further creativity and innovation.
  • The legal protection of new creations encourages the commitment of additional resources for further innovation
  • The promotion and protection of intellectual property spurs economic growth, creates new jobs and industries, and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life.
  • An efficient and equitable intellectual property system helps all countries to realize intellectual property’s potential as a catalyst for economic development and social and cultural well-being.
  • It ensures credilbility and quality of a product thereby enhancing consumers confidence through reliable, international trademark protection and enforcement mechanisms to discourage counterfeiting and piracy.
  • The WIPO administers the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), known as the “Internet Treaties”, which clarify international norms aimed at preventing unauthorized access to and use of creative works on the Internet.

India’s initiatives for IPR protection

WTO: India has been a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since 1995. This requires member nations to establish intellectual property (IP) laws whose effect is in line with minimum standards.

Copyright: India is a signatory to the Berne Convention on copyright. Copyrights Act and Information Technology Act, 2000 (for copyright in electronics and digital field) govern the laws for copyright in India.

Patents: India’s Patents Act of 1970 and 2003 Patent Rules govern the law concerning patents. The regulatory authority for patents is the Patent Registrar within the department of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks, which is part of India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Designs: law on industrial designs are governed by Designs Act, 2000 under DIPP, Ministry of Commerce and industry.

Geographical Indications: The GIs are governed under Geographical Indications of Goods Act, 1999 under DIPP, Ministry of Commerce and industry.

Traditional Knowledge: A Traditional Knowledge Digital Library has been created to safeguard and bring together traditional knowledge at one platform through collaboration – between the CSIR and the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (Dept. of AYUSH), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.


India’s National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy

The Policy which is in compliance with WTO’s (World Trade Organisation) agreement on TRIPS (Trade Related aspects of IPRs), aims to sustain entrepreneurship and boost ‘Make in India.’

  • It aims to push IPRs as a marketable financial asset, promote innovation and entrepreneurship, while protecting public interest.
  • The plan will be reviewed every five years in consultation with stakeholders.
  • To ensure strong and effective IPR laws, steps would be taken — including review of existing IP laws.
  • The policy is entirely compliant with the WTO’s agreement on TRIPS.
  • Special thrust on awareness generation and effective enforcement of IPRs, besides encouragement of IP commercialisation through various incentives.
  • India will engage constructively in the negotiation of international treaties and agreements in consultation with stakeholders.
  • It suggests making the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) the nodal agency for all IPR issues.
  • Copyrights related issues will also come under DIPP’s ambit from that of the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry.
  • Films, music, industrial drawings will be all covered by copyright.
  • The Policy also seeks to facilitate domestic IPR filings, for the entire value chain from IPR generation to commercialisation. It aims to promote research and development through tax benefits.
  • The policy left the country’s patent laws intact and specifically did not open up Section 3(d) of the Patents Act, which sets the standard for what is considered an invention in India, for reinterpretation.
  • Compulsory licensing (CL) remains intact and compliant with TRIPS.

Policy has some drawbacks in striking a balance between innovation and interests of under privileged because:

  • The policy equates IPR generation as Innovation.
  • Emphasizing on the commercialization of IPRs will act as a deterrent for start-ups and even increase the cost of the products.
  • The policy doesn’t mention mechanisms to protect the traditional knowledge and heritages of tribal are which are being exploited by outsiders.

Way Forward

  • India needs a clear and tough stance on intellectual property both in domestic policy and at the multilateral level.
  • Support for innovation has to be accompanied with instruments that guard local companies against the misuse of market power, coercive bargaining and aggressive acquisition strategies.
  • India needs to spread awareness on IPR in public and for its traditional industries to enable fair monetisation of IP Rights.
  • It needs to safeguard its patents, copyrights and traditional knowledge by ensuring easy IPR rules.


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