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 governments. 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 fabrication of specialized tools and dwelling units some 40 to 50 thousand years ago, to the practice of agriculture some 10 thousand years back, to the amazing possibility of travelling to other planets in the 21st century? Inventions of alphabets, zero, wheel, microscope, antibiotics, transistors and many others have helped the human race to move further than any other animal is capable of doing. These rights, in many ways, are similar to the rights awarded by the government for ownership of your land, house, motorcycle, 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 which are awarded based on certain laws and 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, motorcycles, specific logos or slogans for companies, laptops, varieties of flowers, vegetables and fruits. Laws have been made to protect different categories of IP in different ways through varied 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) and musical works, computer software, etc. For literary works, for example, the rights last for a long period that covers the 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, apparel, glassware, textile designs, pottery, jewelry and similar innumerable products may 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 can identify products with companies and make choices at the time of buying products. TATA, SBI, Coca Cola, McDonald and Microsoft are well known trademarks. Frequently, companies may decide to use a trademark for a product such as Xerox, Lifebuoy, and nylon. Trademarks can last forever, provided the owner renews them in a block of 10 years.
  • Protection of integrated circuit (IC) lay-out designs relates to mask designs of integrated circuits and is valid for 10 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 10 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 can be infinite provided the owner is able to maintain 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 of the drink 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, such as Darjeeling Tea, Scotch, Tequilla, etc. This protection can also last forever, provided it is renewed every 10 years. It must be remembered that GI is associated with the product and there is no ownership by individuals.

In the early days of internationalization of IPR practices, patents, trademarks, designs and appellation of origin were collectively known as industrial property. Copyrights were considered to be a separate entity as they were not directly related to industry during the early days. Now, all the forms of IPR described above are collectively called intellectual property rights (IPR).

IP is intangible in nature and is quite unlike the property we commonly speak of, such as land, house, motor vehicle, etc. which can be seen and thus tangible. Intellectual property rights (IPR) are primarily certificates issued by the government of a country which establishes ownership of IPR based on the information available with granting or registering authorities. IPR can be transferred, licensed, assigned, or gifted like any other property. Further, IPR are generally territorial rights enforceable only in the country granting the rights. IP always deal with something novel and original. IPR provide exclusive rights to the owners of IPR prohibiting anyone else to use or produce or market the concerned property without the consent of the owner of the IPR. Therefore, IPR acts as an incentive for individuals as well as enterprises to invest in research and development for bringing new products to the market. Further, it is much easier to license or commercialize products of an invention which is protected through a patent. If you did not have these rights then anyone can copy your invention, perhaps at a lower cost, and become a competitor eating into your market space and profits. These exclusive rights help to secure and bring new innovations and technologies to the market, which in turn acts as a catalyst in the economic growth of a country. The IP system offers these exclusive rights to the creator in lieu of the complete public disclosure of the invention. This public disclosure furthers development of the knowledge-base through providing a platform for others to build and expand on the disclosed knowledge.