Intellectual Property Rights in India and its position globally

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The current century is without a doubt the century of technology and innovations. As such, it is important to protect those innovations. In recent times, one area of law has shown exceptional growth. That is Intellectual Property and Information Technology. India too has seen this growth both domestically and globally. The rise of the Indian economy is one of the consequences of the growth of Intellectual Property and rights in the country. India, being an important center of business and trade for many companies and firms, has become a signatory to the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. India is said to have adopted and to be in compliance with the US and European Intellectual Property Right structure and system of working.

The Intellectual Property Rights are not permanent in nature. They have to be renewed from time to time at a charge which goes towards official fees.

India introduced its first patent law in the colonial era in the form of Indian Patent Law, 1856. It was updated and amended from time to time as per the needs of time. After independence, however, a full and final official legislation was introduced, The Indian Patent Act 1970. This law was then amended to be in compatibility with the TRIPS Agreement, which came in force in 1995.While the process of bringing out amendments was going on, India became a member of the Paris Convention, Patent Cooperation Treaty, Budapest Treaty and finally signed the TRIPS agreement to comply with the International and Indian standards. Recently, India signed the “Madrid Protocol” which further enhances the applicability of Trademarks in 89 countries. India is now a member of almost all of the important and major international treaties and conventions in the area of Intellectual Property Law.

The importance given to Intellectual Property Rights in India has had a beneficial effect on not only the legal sector, but also on the economy. The number of patent fillings has increased manifold as more and more of research oriented people are filling for the protection of their innovations and researches. More number of foreign companies is now establishing their R&D centres in India, which shows the spreading and increasing influence of IPR in the country.

Earlier, when Indian Patent system was not in compliance with TRIPS, there was a risk of a healthy Patent protection provision in India. But today the condition has totally changed. India is now a member of TRIPS agreement and our patent system is fully compliant with the TRIPS. Even though Indian Patent Act contains all the TRIPS flexibilities, the relevant provisions require fine tuning, especially of those related to the patent protection, compulsory license and government use. This fine tuning is required so that the provisions suit the needs of the conditions and people in India. Also, the slight changes have to be made to serve the purpose of making the provisions of TRIPS Agreement more acceptable in the country. These changes are also necessary as every country has its own local needs and circumstances.

Though many achievements have been made in this field, IPR is still in its nascent stage in India. The field in India still has to make giant strides to be in the same league as more developed IPR sectors in the world such as the United States, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, etc. The continuous efforts of Indian Government gives pace to the intellectual regime but more efforts are to be taken in overcoming challenges which restrict IPR to reach the international standards. The IP Sector in India faces some major challenges. Some of them have been mentioned below-

  • Lack of Awareness- People in India, especially those in the remote areas are still somewhat unaware of IPR and how it works. This unawareness has to be evaded and it can only be achieved through education. Awareness and education camps have to be organised in such areas so that people become aware of this still new area of law and research. Many people are unaware of the advantages of Intellectual Property and their rights in this aspect. This stands as one of the most major challenges that India still faces in this field.
  • Lack of Professionals-As already discussed, India is still in a nascent stage in this field of research. Due to this, there is also a shortage of skilled professionals in this area of law and practice. Though, Intellectual Property Rights is establishing its footing in the country, the number of professionals supplied is still nowhere close to the demand for the same.
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Past decade attempts concluding crucial amendments to the Patent Act of 1970 and have built up a firm base for a fully functional patent system. Intellectual Property Rights’ influence in the current regime is much affected by its awareness and intellectual nature. In the current scenario, various important steps have been taken in reaching Intellectual Property rights to a new height and compliance with USPTO, EPO, and other countries’ Intellectual Property Rights regime, and it was believed that more steps have to be taken. Further, people are still unaware about Intellectual Property Rights and their advantages in taking rights for their intellectual property. In such cases, the government should promote awareness of IPR in remote areas.

The TRIPS Agreement also brought a very important wave of importance to the protection, management and maintenance of the Intellectual Property and rights. Much security and heed wasn’t given globally to this area of innovations and inventions. Though, such was not the case in India which had certain acts and legislations concerning Intellectual Property and its protection much before this agreement came into force. Such acts and legislations have been mentioned earlier and explained below separately.

This is the first agreement which brought the intellectual property law into the multilateral trading system, and to date, remains the most comprehensive and detailed agreement on the governance of intellectual property.

The agreement covers and provides provisions for the following areas of intellectual property:

  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights
  • Geographical Indications (GI)
  • Industrial Designs

India, has for the most part maintained its position well in the global market of Intellectual Property and its protection. For better understanding, a brief explanation of the areas of protection in the TRIPS Agreement and their current standing in India has been laid down below-

  • Patents- The TRIPS Agreement provides for a minimum protection of 20 years from the date of filing of the patent. Although, India had already implemented its obligations mentioned under the Articles 70.8 and 70.9 of the agreement. This was done by the introduction of the Patents Act in 1970 which also underwent three amendments in 1999, 2002, and 2005 respectively.  Patents help in keeping the business innovations safe and original before they actually take the shape according to the vision.
  • Trademarks-A Trademark is any sign or symbol or a combination of signs and symbols which distinguish the goods or services of one entity from the goods and services of other competing entities. The TRIPS Agreement states that the initial registration and each renewal of the registration would be for a period of seven years. The agreement also provides that each registration would be capable of being renewed indefinitely. India completed and fulfilled its obligation under the Trade Marks Act, 1999.
  • Copyrights-The Indian Copyrights Act, 1957 fully covers the provisions and guidelines laid down in the Berne Convention on Copyrights, India is a party and active signatory of which. Apart from this, India is also a party to the Universal Copyright Convention and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the UNESCO. There have been several amendments to this law. Those coming in 1995, 1999 and 2012 respectively. The 1995 amendment was to bring the Copyright law in lines with the TRIPS Agreement, which came into force the same year. Under the law, Copyright Enforcement Advisory Council was formed which looks after the working of the copyrights in the country. As stated in the Rome Convention, even the performer’s rights are now covered under the copyright law. Also, training programs are provided to the enforcement officers and special policy cells have been set up which deal with the cases of copyright infringements. All this has been done to make the Indian Copyright law in lines with the TRIPS Agreement.
  • Geographical Indications (GI)- The Indian Law which follows the guidelines for the GI in the TRIPS Agreement is the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and the Protection) Act, 1999. Under the act, naturally produced specialities and goods of a specific region are given the ‘GI Tags’ to denote that a particular product is produced in a specific region or area of the country. This is done to ensure that only that particular region has origin rights and credit for a particular good. Under the TRIPS Agreement, there is no obligation of the WTO to protect the Geographical Indications which are not protected in their country of origin or have fallen out of use in that country.
  • Industrial Designs-The New Designs Act, 2000 provides protection to the industrial designs in India. It mainly protects the design element of the industrial produce. This has been done to keep the innovative mind set of the people alive by making them feel safe about their produce. The law is in lines with the ever changing and dynamic industries of today’s times.
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The major take away from this research was that even though Intellectual Property and its protection are still in its nascent stage in India, the growth has been slow but steady. The authorities to ensure that India rises to become a big power in the sector of Intellectual Property have been taking measures through education and awareness. For the second part of the research question, India is very well placed in the global market as it not only fulfills all the obligations mentioned under the TRIPS Agreement but also seeks to enforce and ensure its implementation. India might not be ready to become a global center straightaway, but the signs are positive and if the country can maintain its growth and efforts in the field, it is very much possible and within reach.