An Idea, A start – What are Intellectual Property Rights?

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In the day and age of startups and new ideas, it is extremely important to know the worth of a new idea and what can happen if someone were to steal your idea. Knowledge based economy is the key word in the global scenario today. New ideas and inventions are helping shape the global trends and direction the global economy is taking. The key to economic development is the development of new ideas, i.e., intellectual capital. This makes the protection of Intellectual Property Rights a high priority for individuals as well as corporations and governments.

Intellectual Property Rights refers to a general term for the assignment of property rights through patents, copyrights and trademarks. These property rights allow the holder to exercise a monopoly on the use of the item for a specified period”.

Though the history of development of the idea of intellectual property rights can be traced back to the 16th century, when Jewish Law prohibited the theft of ideas, the concept of intellectual property is fairly new. The development of the concept of intellectual property emerged from the rising activity in the fields of arts, science and literature in the 18th century. With this emergence of new ideas in the fields of arts, science and literature, there arose a need to protect the worth of an idea itself and the intangible property in the hands of the owner of that idea or work.

The protection of Intellectual Property Rights ensures that the creator of the idea enjoys the rights over that idea for a limited period of time. This makes the idea an intangible asset for the creator, to be used and enjoyed. Apart from creating a statutory right in favor of the originator, the vesting of these rights promotes the idea of fair play in his mind thus encouraging inventiveness, progress and development of more ideas. The present time being a time for the growth of knowledge based economy, such development at the grass root level becomes extremely important for the development of the economy as a whole.

In India, the development and implementation of the Intellectual Property Rights is at a nascent stage as the awareness of this subject has commenced mainly in the last 15-20 years. The infringement of copyrights, patents and trademarks is a very wide umbrella and covers a lot of different aspects and kinds of works which form tangible and intangible assets for the creator/ originator.

The problem of piracy of works at a large scale is a global phenomenon and the industries in India are not immune to it either. In fact, awareness of intellectual property rights among the masses has been generated in India primarily through the entertainment industry where a number of cases of copyright infringement as well as piracy are being brought to the fore.

Infringement of original works is not just an issue for the entertainment industry but also for the big corporations. In a recent case, the Delhi High issued a temporary injunction restraining Britannia from using the packaging of ‘Nutri Choice Digestive Zero’ biscuits in its present form, while holding that the said packaging was ‘deceptively similar’ to the packaging used for ITC’s Sunfeast ‘Farmlite Digestive Good’ biscuits. Britannia was granted time for a period of 4 weeks to phase out the existing stocks of the Nutri Choice biscuits and the Hon’ble Court held that “The Court is, therefore, satisfied that the impugned packaging for ‘Nutri Choice Digestive Zero’ biscuits launched by Britannia is deceptively similar to the packaging of ‘Sunfeast Farmlite Digestive All Good’ biscuits and such deception is likely to confuse the consumers of such biscuits, even the discerning heath conscious ones, into thinking that Britannia’s biscuits are that of ITC’s”.

Though at an emerging stage, the development and implementation of strong intellectual property rights is a necessary step in the right direction in order to protect the tangible and intangible assets of a creator or inventor of an idea or invention.

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