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Let’s discuss about Intellectual Property Rights or IPR – the modern world’s unique solution to foster creativity and give its creator the exclusive rights to usage over a period of time. It also protects unauthorised use of these intangible creative assets without consent thereby ensuring that the creator gets their due credit and financial rewards associated with it. There are different types of Intellectual Property Rights in India, the most popular ones being trademark registration, patents, and copyrights.

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Let us understand the meaning of Intellectual Property Rights better and their importance in modern societies and global commerce.

What is Intellectual Property Rights?

We begin with the definition of Intellectual Property Rights – what does it mean to the individual and the organisation?

The purpose of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is to safeguard innovation from usage without consent. It can relate to literary works by writers, a brand logo design, a software developed by an organisation, or any other. As such, if any IPR asset is to be used, it must be done so with permission, else will be considered as IPR infringement.

As can be understood, IPR protection is critical today and it plays a vital role in modern economies. It not only gives creators the right to profit from their innovations but also supports a culture of protecting innovative creations.

Also read: MSME logo – Approvals, download, usage guidelines

Overview of IPR:

The need to protect intellectual assets was recognised and hence acknowledged with the birth of Intellectual Property Rights in the 19th century though it was legalised much later. The scope expanded over the years and today includes a wide range of intangible assets such as: Industrial designs, domain names, inventions, logos, computer software, works of art etc.

In the modern world it protects creators from having their works copied and used without authorisation, and hence reap the benefits of their innovation. In modern global markets, it provides a framework and legal backing for businesses and individuals to innovate and have exclusivity over its usage.

Who owns the intellectual property?

The creator of the asset owns the property.

This can be an individual, in the case of a book, music notes, poem, painting, or any other. It can even be a business/organisation filing for a patent/trademark if the asset is created by employees of the organisation under its guidance, funding and assistance.

As such, based on the nature of asset and its original creator, the ownership of intellectual property rights will change.

Why is Intellectual Property Rights important?

The importance of IPR cannot be overstated. How discouraging it would be for an artist or creator to find his/her work replicated without authorisation and not getting rewarded and appreciated for the hours of labour put into it!

In the Indian perspective, the start-up ecosystem makes it vital for new businesses to safeguard their works through relevant trademarks, copyrights, and patents. On that note, we take a look at why Intellectual Property Rights is important to businesses and individuals.

Also read: Startup India scheme – A government initiative to help startups file IPR, get exemptions and more

  • Cultivating a culture of innovation: It encourages research, development and innovation by providing legal protection to creators over their creations
  • Resolution to legal disputes: It enables businesses to fairly settle any dispute over design, logo, patents, or any other
  • Driving economic growth: It allows businesses and individuals to profit whenever their creation is being used, e.g., usage of an international brand trademark for marketing and sales
  • Fostering global trade and commerce: IPR is the foundation on the basis of which cross-border trade and commerce occurs, e.g., TRIPS Agreement under WHO for India’s trade relations for technology and commercial exchanges

What are the 4 types of intellectual property rights in India?

Any discussion on what is intellectual property rights is incomplete without looking at the different types of Intellectual Property Rights in India. The 7 most popular ones include: Trade secrets, trademarks, digital assets, copyrights, franchises, patents, and industrial designs.

Also read: Logistics franchise business – Learn how to start one in India

We’ll take a closer look at the 4 main types of Intellectual Property Rights and what they mean:

1. Copyright

This usually is the protection offered to literary and artistic works. This could refer to books, music, movies, designs, and even software.

For instance, a writer has copyright over his/her novel. Any movie maker wanting to recreate the novel into a movie will have to get consent (licencing agreement) from him/her for it. This financially rewards the writer for the work and protects the original creation from unsolicited distribution or deviation.

In the U.S. copyrights are valid for a period of 70 years after the demise of the original creator, i.e., author.

2. Patents

Patents are for innovators and gives them exclusivity over their creations. Patents can be acquired for chemical compounds, gadgets, machines, inventions, computer codes, or any other.

Most technology companies have their inventions patented to prevent them from imitation. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies also have their innovative drugs patented to prevent duplicates.

Patents have to be applied for and are provided through an agency. It also comes with a lifespan, usually 20 years (as in the U.S.)

3. Trademarks

Trademarks are usually used for goods and services – slogans, names, symbols, or any other.

Trademarked names/logos are easy to remember and recall. Businesses use it exclusively in business branding for building brand identity.

For instance, think of a popular tech company, apparel maker, retailer or any other. If you can recall their logo or brand name (even the style/colour) it is likely that the brand will have trademarked it in fear of replicating substitutes.

Trademarked names distinguish the brand from competitors, confirms originality of product, and fosters long-term loyalty.

There is a systematic process of trademark registration in India. Once applied for, you should check the trademark registration status to ensure that your application got through.

There are also different trademark registration fees that have to be paid on new application, renewal, rectification or change of address.

Like patents and copyrights, trademarks also come with a time limit. In India, trademark renewal must be applied for after the 9th year (i.e., trademark validity is for 10 years) with the Office of Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks.

4. Trade secrets

The last in our list of types of intellectual property rights are Trade Secrets.

As the name goes, it refers to any intellectual secret that gives an organisation competitive advantage. It can be a recipe or formula (e.g., the formula for a beverage or soft drink, or chocolate etc.), or any practice, design or process that is known by individuals within the organisation and not revealed to outsiders.

Trade Secrets are protected by the owners. They play a vital role in distinguishing the business from others.

As a business or individual it’s recommended to understand the different types of Intellectual Property Rights to identify which is the right type of IPR for you and apply for it.

What is IPR infringement and how to avoid it?

As a creator, you wouldn’t want your innovation to be imitated or used by someone else without consent. This is known as IPR infringement and occurs when an IPR registered asset has been used without authorisation.

For instance, if a copyrighted music note is copied and used in another, or a trademarked brand name is used for marketing purposes without taking permission, or if a competitor designs a similar logo design to attract customers.

These are all instances of IPR infringement and there are some basic steps you can take to stay away from it.

How to avoid IPR infringement?

As a business owner, these are some of the strategies to keep in mind when it comes to usage of IRP assets:

  • Have a legal team to keep your business updated and familiar with IP laws. For example, when using images on your marketing content, always check the copyright on it before usage.
  • Always do your due diligence when launching a new product or brand. For instance, you can search the Trademark Registry to check if any logo or brand name has been copyrighted and avoid its usage.
  • Have trainings on IP laws and rights, and guidelines established in your organisation. For instance, you may have the policy to use only licenced software in your office laptops to avoid any IPR infringement cases.

Intellectual Properties are important to their creators – businesses and individuals. And every time it is used without permission, it disregards the effort and labour of the creator.

Creators need to protect their assets and the Intellectual Property Rights are the most comprehensive and formal method to do so.

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Sohini Banerjee

Sohini is a seasoned content writer with 12 years’ experience in developing marketing and business content across multiple formats. At Tata nexarc, she leverages her skills in crafting curated content on the Indian MSME sector, steel procurement, and logistics. In her personal time, she enjoys reading fiction and being up-to-date on trends in digital marketing and the Indian business ecosystem.