Intellectual Property Rights commonly asked questions

By | February 1, 2016

What is Intellectual property ?

Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property is divided into two categories:

  • Industrial Property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications.
  • Copyright covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures) and architectural design. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs.

What are intellectual property rights?

Intellectual property rights are like any other property right. They allow creators, or owners, of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation. These rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of scientific, literary or artistic productions.

The importance of intellectual property was first recognized in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886). Both treaties are administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

What are the laws in India relating to Protection of Intellectual Property Rights ?

The Indian Copyright Act, 1957

Patents Act, 1970

Trademarks Act, 1999

The Designs Act, 2000

Why promote and protect intellectual property?

There are several compelling reasons. First, the progress and well-being of humanity rest on its capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture. Second, the legal protection of new creations encourages the commitment of additional resources for further innovation. Third, the promotion and protection of intellectual property spurs economic growth, creates new jobs and industries, and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life.

An efficient and equitable intellectual property system can help all countries to realize intellectual property’s potential as a catalyst for economic development and social and cultural well-being. The intellectual property system helps strike a balance between the interests of innovators and the public interest, providing an environment in which creativity and invention can flourish, for the benefit of all.

What is a Patent?

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention – a product or process that provides a new way of doing something, or that offers a new technical solution to a problem. A patent provides patent owners with protection for their inventions. Protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years.

What kind of protection do patents offer?

Patent protection means an invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed or sold without the patent owner’s consent. Patent rights are usually enforced in courts that, in most systems, hold the authority to stop patent infringement. Conversely, a court can also declare a patent invalid upon a successful challenge by a third party.

What rights do patent owners have?

A patent owner has the right to decide who may – or may not – use the patented invention for the period during which it is protected. Patent owners may give permission to, or license, other parties to use their inventions on mutually agreed terms. Owners may also sell their invention rights to someone else, who then becomes the new owner of the patent. Once a patent expires, protection ends and the invention enters the public domain. This is also known as becoming off patent, meaning the owner no longer holds exclusive rights to the invention, and it becomes available for commercial exploitation by others.

What role do patents play in everyday life?

Patented inventions have pervaded every aspect of human life, from electric lighting (patents held by Edison and Swan) and sewing machines (patents held by Howe and Singer), to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (patents held by Damadian) and the iPhone (patents held by Apple).

In return for patent protection, all patent owners are obliged to publicly disclose information on their inventions in order to enrich the total body of technical knowledge in the world. This everincreasing body of public knowledge promotes further creativity and innovation. Patents therefore provide not only protection for their owners but also valuable information and inspiration for future generations of researchers and inventors.

How is a patent granted?

The first step in securing a patent is to file a patent application. The application generally contains the title of the invention, as well as an indication of its technical field. It must include the background and a description of the invention, in clear language and enough detail that an individual with an average understanding of the field could use or reproduce the invention. Such descriptions are usually accompanied by visual materials – drawings, plans or diagrams – that describe the invention in greater detail. The application also contains various “claims”, that is, information to help determine the extent of protection to be granted by the patent.

What kinds of inventions can be protected?

An invention must, in general, fulfill the following conditions to be protected by a patent.

  • It must be of practical use;
  • it must show an element of “novelty”, meaning some new characteristic that is not part of the body of existing knowledge in its particular technical field. That body of existing knowledge is called “prior art”.
  • The invention must show an “inventive step” that could not be deduced by a person with average knowledge of the technical field.
  • Its subject matter must be accepted as “patentable” under law.

In many countries, scientific theories, mathematical methods, plant or animal varieties, discoveries of natural substances, commercial methods or methods of medical treatment (as opposed to medical products) are not generally patentable.

Who grants patents?

Patents are granted by national patent offices or by regional offices that carry out examination work for a group of countries – for example, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI). Under such regional systems, an applicant requests protection for an invention in one or more countries, and each country decides whether to offer patent protection within its borders. The WIPO-administered Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) provides for the filing of a single international patent application that has the same effect as national applications filed in the designated countries. An applicant seeking protection may file one application and request protection in as many signatory states as needed.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies certain goods or services produced or provided by an individual or a company. Its origin dates back to ancient times when craftsmen reproduced their signatures, or “marks”, on their artistic works or products of a functional or practical nature. Over the years, these marks have evolved into today’s system of trademark registration and protection. The system helps consumers to identify and purchase a product or service based on whether its specific characteristics and quality – as indicated by its unique trademark – meet their needs.

What do trademarks do?

Trademark protection ensures that the owners of marks have the exclusive right to use them to identify goods or services, or to authorize others to use them in return for payment. The period of protection varies, but a trademark can be renewed indefinitely upon payment of the corresponding fees. Trademark protection is legally enforced by courts that, in most systems, have the authority to stop trademark infringement.

In a larger sense, trademarks promote initiative and enterprise worldwide by rewarding their owners with recognition and financial profit. Trademark protection also hinders the efforts of unfair competitors, such as counterfeiters, to use similar distinctive signs to market inferior or different products or services. The system enables people with skill and enterprise to produce and market goods and services in the fairest possible conditions, thereby facilitating international trade.

What kinds of trademarks can be registered?

Trademarks may be one or a combination of words, letters and numerals. They may consist of drawings, symbols or threedimensional signs, such as the shape and packaging of goods. In some countries, non-traditional marks may be registered for distinguishing features such as holograms, motion, color and non-visible signs (sound, smell or taste).

In addition to identifying the commercial source of goods or services, several other trademark categories also exist. Collective marks are owned by an association whose members use them to indicate products with a certain level of quality and who agree to adhere to specific requirements set by the association. Such associations might represent, for example, accountants, engineers or architects. Certification marks are given for compliance with defined standards but are not confined to any membership.

They may be granted to anyone who can certify that their products meet certain established standards. Some examples of recognized certification are the internationally accepted “ISO 9000” quality standards and Ecolabels for products with reduced environmental impact.

How is a trademark registered?

First, an application for registration of a trademark must be filed with the appropriate national or regional trademark office. The application must contain a clear reproduction of the sign filed for registration, including any colors, forms or three-dimensional features. It must also contain a list of the goods or services to which the sign would apply. The sign must fulfill certain conditions in order to be protected as a trademark or other type of mark. It must be distinctive, so that consumers can distinguish it from trademarks identifying other products, as well as identify a particular product with it. It must neither mislead nor deceive customers nor violate public order or morality.

Finally, the rights applied for cannot be the same as, or similar to, rights already granted to another trademark owner. This may be determined through search and examination by national offices, or by the opposition of third parties who claim to have similar or identical rights.

How extensive is trademark protection?

Almost all countries in the world register and protect trademarks. Each national or regional office maintains a Register of Trademarks containing full application information on all registrations and renewals, which facilitates examination, search and potential opposition by third parties. The effects of the registration are, however, limited to the country (or, in the case of regional registration, countries) concerned.

To avoid the need to register separate applications with each national or regional office, WIPO administers an international registration system for trademarks. The system is governed by two treaties: the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks and the Madrid Protocol. Persons with a link (be it through nationality, domicile or establishment) to a country party to one or both of these treaties may, on the basis of a registration or application with the trademark office of that country (or related region), obtain an international registration having effect in some or all of the other countries of the Madrid Union.

What is an Industrial Design ?

An industrial design refers to  the  ornamental  or aesthetic aspects of an article . A design may consist  of  three dimensional features , such as the shape of surface of an article , or two -dimensional features , such as patterns , line or color.



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