The Right Idea – Guide to Intellectual Property Rights

Close on the heels of Hollywood blockbuster The Social network, have you ever thought what you would do if someone stole your idea? In today’s fast paced knowledge-based economy, inventions and the “eureka” moments are shaping trends. Ideas and knowledge or intellectual capital underpins the development of economies. The worth of ideas is considered intellectual property that has to be protected, albeit with conditions. And, so Intellectual Property Right (IPR) are the legal right resulting from intellectual activity in the scientific, literary and the artistic fields. The genesis of intellectual property rights and the very premise of intellectual property were identified as early as the 18th century. Certain court rulings in the 19th century mention the term while the history of the patents for discoveries can be traced further back. Digging deeper into history shows references to prohibition of theft of ideas in Jewish law way back in the 16th century, even though the concept of intellectual property itself was not developed back then. IPR allows the creators of ideas to enjoy certain exclusive rights for a limited period on intangible assets to control the use made of those productions. IPR aims to give moral and statutory rights to the creator on one hand and promote creativity, development and fair play on the other.

It was the surge of industrialisation and free trade that led to the belief that intellectual property rights were required and had to be regulated. In the year 1873, the International Exhibition of Inventions in Vienna was held, Many inventors refused to attend this event, believing that their ideas would be stolen and exploited in other countries. This led to the charting of Paris Convention for the protection of Industrial Property of 1883. Simply put, it allowed people to safeguard their creations against exploitations in other countries. Following closely, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886, extended intellectual property to the realm of copyright. This codified the right of artists to their creations. In 1893 both these united to form the United International bureaus for the protection of Intellectual Property Organisation under the UN through the Stockholm Convention in 1967. The mission of WIPO is to promote through international cooperation the creation, dissemination, cultural and social progress of all mankind.

Talking of Intellectual property law of India, Abhilasha Kambhat, a specialist in IPR and a Lawyer at Rajasthan High Court says: “It is only in the last 15 to 20 years that people have become more aware of IPR. Government and private sector initiatives to disseminate knowledge about the subject through interactions with industries and other stakeholders have been one important reason for this positive change”Amarjit Singh, seminal authority on IPR and Managing Partner, Amarjit and Associates, an Intellectual Property boutique firm in Delhi, believes that economic liberalisation has tremendously changed the IPR regime. Shruti Sondhi, Managing Associate at Anand and Anand Associates, one of India’s top law firms in the fields of IPR says that IPR will only grow from strength to strength.

But IPR is not without its fair of criticism. Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software GNU project, believes that the term intellectual property itself is flawed as it is used as an overarching umbrella to incorporate different elements like copyright, patents, trademarks. On the other hand it is argued that IPR protects the creativity of the mind which should be considered like any other tangible or non tangible asset.

India will face challenges in the IPR arena as more cases come to light. Hari Subramanium, a leading Patent Attorney in Kerala, India Says: ” Copyright is one area where IPR will face a big challenge as we can already see with infringements on music, book and other media. Lack of specialised patent courts and high level of technical expertise required in understanding is an area which we need to work on”


A&M Records vs Napster (2001)-Napster, a peer-to-peer music sharing site, had to settle US$26 million to different recording companies and song writer before closing in 2002.

Princeton University Press vs. Michigan Document Service created booklets out of photocopied study material provided by the University and sold it to the students. The court considered that it was not “fair use” and penalised the photocopying company.

Zippo Manufacturing Company vs. Mookchandani & others- Zippo won a case regarding the shape mark on its lighter which copied on other cheaper quality lighters in India.

Harry Potter vs. Hari Puutar Warner Brothers lost the case regarding similar sounding movie title as it was asserted that subject matter was different in the Bollywood movie.

Austin Nichols vs. Jagatjit Industries Limited-Jagatjit Industries lost the right to use the Blender’s pride trademark.

Various pharmaceutical company patent infringement cases.

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