Intellectual property rights (IPR) are about creations of mind which are new and original in the global context and are granted to creators of intellectual property by the government. Creativity and inventiveness have been the central source and theme of human existence and development; and most things that are interesting, important, and useful for humans are the result of human creativity. Our ancestors travelled millions of years, overcoming unimaginable difficulties through grit, hard work, unceasing perseverance and inventive skills, to come to the stage where we find ourselves today. Otherwise how do you explain the transition from staying on trees, to the fabricating of specialized tools and dwelling units some 40 to 50 thousand years back, to practicing agriculture some 10000 years back, to travelling to other planets in the 21st century. Inventions of alphabets, zero, wheel, microscope, antibiotics, transistors and many others have helped the humans to move further which no other animal is capable of doing. Awarding right of ownership for creations and inventions help the society in advancing further for better living, health, entertainment etc. These rights in many ways are similar to the rights awarded by the government for your land, house, motor cycle, factory, hotels and so on. Whenever we think of property we think about ownership and whenever we think about ownership we know that the property cannot be used without your consent or permission. It may be noted that IPR are exclusive rights and awarded based on certain laws and these rights are available for a fixed period of time. After the expiry of this protection time anyone can use the intellectual property (IP) without the permission of the owner. In our day to day life we come across different types of IP such as new products, medicines, books, paintings, songs, dresses, motor bikes, interesting logo or slogans for companies, laptops, varieties of flowers, vegetables and fruits. Laws have been made to protect different types of IP in different ways through different forms of IPR which are given below:
Patents are linked new, non-obvious and useful inventions which may relate to products, processes, compositions etc. Patents are awarded for a period of 20 years. Copyrights are given for original literary (books, articles), artistic (paintings, photographs, drawings), musical works, computer software etc. and for literary work, for example, the rights last for a long period and that is author’s life from the date of creation of the work plus sixty years. Industrial design rights are in respect of articles having unique shapes, colour combinations, geometric patterns and ornamentation. Furniture, dresses, tumblers, textile designs, pottery, jewellery and innumerable products will qualify for design rights provided the features are new and original. Design rights are available for a period of 15 years. Trademarks are names, logos, pictures, numbers, drawings or their combinations used by companies so that customers could identify products with companies and make choices at the time of buying products. TATA, SBI, Coca Cola, McDonald and Microsoft are well known trademarks. Many a times companies may decide to use a trademark for a product such as Xerox, Lifebuoy, nylon. Trademarks can last for ever, provided the owner renews them in a block of ten years. Protection of IC lay-out designs relates to mask designs of integrated circuits and is valid for ten years. Protection of new plants varieties is in respect of new varieties of known plants. For example if someone develops a spotted variety of rose then this variety can be protected for a period of ten years. Protection of undisclosed information deals with trade secrets and confidential information like data, reports, drawings, design calculations and so on. The term of protection could be infinite provided the owner can maintain the secrecy. However, if someone else generates say, identical drawings on his own, it would not be considered infringement of the previous drawings held as trade secret by the earlier person. Coca Cola still maintains some aspect of the formulation as trade secret. Protection of geographical indications (GI) is given to names associated for a long time with products originating from a specific geographical location and reputed for their special characteristics like Darjeeling tea, Chanderi sari etc. This protection can also last for ever, provided it is renewed every ten years. It must be remembered that GI is associated with the product and there is no ownership by individuals.
IPR have very strong tie up with trade and commerce both in the domestic and international contexts. IPR stand you in good stead in the face of competition through exclusive rights in terms of patents copyrights, designs, trademarks or combination of these rights. IPR can also be used to obtain loans, license your IP to others, enter into joint ventures, find business partners and consolidate research and development to create new IP. As a result, the R&D becomes more focussed and directed towards creating IP having practical utility. It must be remembered that every IP generated may not be successful in the market because the success depends on many other factors as well. However, if all other factors are the same, IPR will certainly provide a distinct advantage and lead over other products. It is reported that to introduce a new drug into the market a company may work on many molecules say, few thousands, before arriving at one which may succeed in the market. It may take about 12-15 years to introduce a new drug in the market and cost the company about Rs. 2000- 5000 crores. Therefore, it can be seen that the journey from invention to a successful product is long and may require substantial funds.
The process of invention starts with identifying a problem quite accurately and precisely. An extensive research may be needed to find out alternative solutions which are really new and non-obvious by studying literature and products available in the market. The solutions cannot be in terms of ideas alone but, a practical way of implementing the ideas must be evolved. Do remember that an invention has to be globally new for grant of a patent along with traits of non-obviousness and utility. After determining novelty, non-obviousness and utility of the invention, an application has to be submitted to the Patent Office along with the description of the invention for the grant of a patent for the invention. As mentioned, IPR are awarded by the government and as an inventor one has to request the government (Central). Prescribed fee has to be paid for obtaining IPR and often it may be advisable to take the help of a patent attorney (lawyer) for this purpose.
Age is no bar for obtaining patents or design rights or copyrights. A young child can have copyrights over his original notes and paintings and other creative work. The youngest person to be granted a patent is a 4 year old girl from USA for an aid for grasping round knobs. In 1850 Margaret Knight, at the age of 12, invented a stop motion device to quickly stop powered textile loom in case something went wrong. She was granted a US patent. It must be kept in mind that before applying for a patent, the invention should not be made public through publishing or talks or exhibiting it in public. Maintaining records of all that has gone behind the invention including failures must be preserved in an organized manner. Do remember that while you would like to protect your IPR, you must honour the IPR of others and not steal them.
Creating something new which is not known to the world is an activity successfully undertaken by people who are brave, who can ask questions, who can admit their mistakes, who can work hard on one problem, who don’t easily give up, who are prepared to take risks and who can take failures in stride. Inventors have keen eyes and understanding to observe, analyse and integrate. They see a problem and often find a solution which many others are not able to do. Teachers must encourage students to ask questions and not dissuade them. Questions cannot be stupid or meaningless because they show a sense of inquisitiveness which is the founding block for inventions. Our inability to answer questions should not dampen the inventive spirit of students. The growth of a nation and the society is dependent on innovations, be it in the area of science, music, literature, games, handicraft, medicine, engineering or any other area. Young minds are the source of innovations and creativity and they need an encouraging environment which is open and free to thinking and provides opportunities for experimentation. Children will then become innovators and change agents leading the society and the country to a bright and prosperous future.
© R Saha
© R Saha