Catalysing economic growth and nurturing innovation through IPRs - Hindustan Times
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Catalysing economic growth and nurturing innovation through IPRs

Apr 26, 2024 11:52 AM IST

This article is authored by Rajendra Pratap Gupta.

The transformative power of technology and innovation have touched every sector and are readily available to enhance productivity, simplify daily obstacles, and improve overall well-being. Solutions are available for both mundane challenges and profound existential dilemmas, with each new obstacle serving as an opportunity for innovation. Contemporary technology fosters closer connections among colleagues, friends, and family across the globe in an instant. Therefore, there is a need to ensure that creators are given their dues for their innovations through Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policies(AFP/shutterstock.com) PREMIUM
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policies(AFP/shutterstock.com)

IPR refer to legal rights that protect creations of the human intellect. These creations can include inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names, and images used in commerce. IPR grants exclusive rights to the creators or owners of these intellectual assets for a certain period of time-and promotes economic growth of a country by encouraging healthy competition and industrial development.

Robust IP protection, particularly in the context of copyright enforcement, carries significant economic implications, especially for a country like India. It incentivises creators in industries such as art and software to produce high-quality content and ensures that creators earn a fair return on their investments, encouraging continued innovation and creativity.

IPR plays crucial roles in incentivising innovation, creativity, and investment, while also promoting competition, consumer protection, and economic development. Each type of IPR serves specific purposes and provides distinct legal protections to intellectual assets in different fields and industries. The different types of IPR include:

  • Patents: Patents grant inventors exclusive rights to their inventions for a limited period, typically 20 years from the filing date. Patents protect novel and non-obvious inventions, processes, products, or designs, preventing others from making, using, selling, or distributing the patented invention without permission.
  • Copyrights: Copyrights protect original works of authorship, including literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic works, as well as software code and architectural designs. Copyright owners have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and create derivative works based on their copyrighted works. Copyright protection typically lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years.
  • Trademarks: Trademarks are symbols, names, phrases, logos, or designs used to distinguish goods or services from those of others. Trademark registration grants exclusive rights to use the mark in commerce and prevents others from using similar marks in a way that may cause confusion.
  • Trade secrets: Trade secrets are confidential and proprietary information that provide businesses with a competitive advantage. Trade secret protection applies to formulas, processes, techniques, methods, or any other confidential information that is not generally known.

Strong IPR enforcement helps maximise economic potential by ensuring that creators and copyright holders can monetise their works, leading to increased revenue generation, employment opportunities, and tax contributions. Moreover, a strong legal framework for copyright protection signals to foreign investors that their intellectual property rights will be respected in the country. This fosters confidence and encourages foreign investment in industries that rely heavily on copyright, such as technology. It further encourages investment in research and development, driving innovation and technological advancement.

Over the years, India has taken an active step in protecting the rights of creators. The government implemented revisions to its anti-piracy legislation via the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012, with key provisions to combat digital piracy. It included Technological Protection Measures (TPM) utilised by copyright owners to uphold their rights. It imposes penalties on individuals who circumvent technological safeguards with the intent to infringe. Convicted offenders may be subject to imprisonment for up to two years along with fines.

Moreover, the Information Technology Act covers the online dissemination of illicit copies of copyrighted material. Perpetrators may be liable for imprisonment for up to three years and fines of up to 2 lakh. More recently, the approval of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, marks a positive stride in the fight against film piracy. The proposed revisions aim to dissuade individuals from partaking in piracy by strengthening the penalties associated with copyright infringements.

The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Act, 2023, also intends to modify 183 clauses across 42 Central Acts overseen by 19 Ministries/Departments, spanning diverse sectors including environment, agriculture, media, industry, trade, information technology, copyright, motor vehicles, cinematography, and food safety. The primary aim is to declassify minor infractions that pose no threat to public interest or national security.

India's accession to three World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) treaties aimed at simplifying the trademark and industrial design search process underscores its commitment to facilitating brand owners and designers in securing protection for their creations. This highlights India's robust participation in multilateral endeavours with the WIPO. While India has made significant strides in this regard, there are several key treaties that need to be ratified, including the Patent Law Treaty, the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, and the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs. While Patent Law Treaty aims to streamline and harmonise formal procedures related to the filing and processing of patent applications, the Singapore Treaty aims to modernise and harmonise international trademark registration procedures. On the other hand, the Hague Agreement simplifies the process of obtaining international protection for industrial designs by allowing applicants to file a single international application designating multiple member countries.

While these treaties offer significant benefits, their ratification requires careful consideration of domestic laws, policies, and stakeholder interests. India may need to assess the potential impact of ratification on its domestic IP regime, address any legislative or procedural gaps, and engage in consultations with stakeholders before ratifying these treaties.

Collaboration between governments, industry stakeholders, public, and international bodies is essential to develop policies and strategies that strike an appropriate balance between protecting IPR and promoting broader societal welfare and curbing competition issues as they arise.

Moreover, in the recent International IP Index, published by the United States Chamber of Commerce, India ranked 42 out of 55 countries for its intellectual property framework. This year’s report highlighted that the disbandment of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board in 2021, alongside persistent challenges of an under-resourced and overburdened judiciary, raises significant apprehensions regarding the capacity of rightsholders. Additionally, there exists a constrained framework for safeguarding biopharmaceutical IP rights.

By aligning with international standards of copyright protection, countries like India can enhance their competitiveness in the global market. Adherence to international treaties and agreements demonstrates a commitment to respecting IPR, which can improve trade relations and facilitate access to foreign markets. Continued efforts to bolster IPR are crucial to realise the nation's full potential as a global hub for innovation and creativity. India will benefit from the global IPR regime, when it creates innovation hubs across all HEIs and increases its R&D spending drastically. I believe, a strong IPR regime is a big motivation for doing more, thereby contributing to new knowledge and strengthening the economic environment.

This article is authored by Rajendra Pratap Gupta, chairman, Academy of Digital Health Sciences & former member, National Education Policy Committee, Government of India.

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