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Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property (IP) refers to the creations of the human mind like inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images and designs used in commerce. Intellectual property is divided into two categories: Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs. Intellectual property rights protect the interests of creators by giving them property rights over their creations.

The most noticeable difference between intellectual property and other forms of property, however, is that intellectual property is intangible, that is, it cannot be defined or identified by its own physical parameters. It must be expressed in some discernible way to be protectable. Generally, it encompasses four separate and distinct types of intangible property namely — patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets, which collectively are referred to as “intellectual property.” However, the scope and definition of intellectual property is constantly evolving with the inclusion of newer forms under the gambit of intellectual property. In recent times, geographical indications, protection of plant varieties, protection for semi-conductors and integrated circuits, and undisclosed information have been brought under the umbrella of intellectual property.

With the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the importance and role of the intellectual property protection has been crystallized in the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Systems (TRIPS) Agreement. It was negotiated at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) treaty in 1994.

The TRIPS Agreement encompasses, in principle, all forms of intellectual property and aims at harmonizing and strengthening standards of protection and providing for effective enforcement at both national and international levels. The TRIPS Agreement, which came into effect on 1 January 1995, is to date the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property. The areas of intellectual property that it covers are:

  • Copyright and related rights(i.e. the rights of performers, producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organisations);
  • Trade marks including service marks;
  • Geographical indications including appellations of origin;
  • Industrial designs;
  • Patents including protection of new varieties of plants;
  • The lay-out designs (topographies) of integrated circuits;
  • The undisclosed information including trade secrets and test data.

Need to Protect IPR

Over a period of time and particularly in contemporary corporate paradigm, ideas and knowledge have become increasingly important parts of trade. Most of the value of high technology products and new medicines lies in the amount of invention, innovation, research, design and testing involved. Films, music recordings, books, computer software and on-line services 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. Many products that used to be traded as low-technology goods or commodities now contain a higher proportion of invention and design in their value, for example, brand-named clothing or new varieties of plants. Therefore, creators are given the right to prevent others from using their inventions, designs or other creations. The premise underlying Intellectual Property throughout its history has been that the recognition and rewards associated with ownership of inventions and creative works stimulate further inventive and creative activity that, in turn, stimulates economic growth