Have you followed the recent Apple- Samsung patent war? This particular war between the two tech giants has created a furor in the international media. To cut the long story short, Apple had accused Samsung of ripping off the innovative technology used by Apple to create iPad and iPhone. Few days ago, after a fierce court room fight, Samsung lost the law suit and was ordered to pay a whopping $1.05 billion to Apple for stealing the technology. This incident brings to fore, once again, the question whether there is a need for protecting intellectual property rights. |
Here’s a take on this issue.
To an author, plagiarism would mean professional disgrace. To an artist, violating a copy right could mean loss of his bread and butter. To an innovator or scientist, infringement of trademark could mean loss of billions of dollars. In this context, isn’t it necessary to protect intellectual property rights (IPR)?
According to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), “intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.” Intellectual property is a broader term that covers patents, trademarks, designs, plant breeders’ rights, copyright, and trade secrets.
Following are some of the reasons to protect intellectual property rights.
Strong and enforced IPR provide protection to consumers
Secure IP rights assist consumers in making an educated choice about the reliability, safety and effectiveness of the product they buy. Enforced IP rights ensure the authenticity and high-quality of the product as per the expectations of the consumers. IPR also boosts the confidence in the minds of consumers and hence is good for the health of market.
IPR helps creating innovative solutions to existing challenges
It needs no further explanation when we say drugs and food are two of the most vulnerable commodities as far as patent rights are concerned. And today if we wish to eat healthy and stay healthy it is imperative that our drugs and agricultural produce be safeguarded through IPR. According to WHO’s Essential Drug List, nearly all of the 300 drugs on this list, which are crucial in saving or improving people’s lives, come from R&D-intensive pharmaceutical industry that heavily depends on patent protection. Not just that, incredible discoveries in the field of alternative energy and green technologies have helped improve energy security and effectively address the climate change. Needless to say, these discoveries were all IP-driven.
IPR promote innovation and pay-off entrepreneurs
Innovation cannot happen with occasional failures and a certain amount of risk. IP rights are the carrots dangling in front of the entrepreneurs who strive for new advances despite adversities. IP rights enable the free flow of information by sharing the secured know-how that is critical to the patented invention.
Intellectual property helps creating and supporting high-paying jobs
The employees of our generation have seen one recession and are close to witnessing another one perhaps. We have seen people being laid off, salary checks being slashed off and perks and incentives being called off. Even under such situations, IP-intensive industry has thrived and an average IP-intensive industry worker earned about 30% more than his counterpart from non-IP industry.
However, there is a counter-argument to this concept of protecting IPR. In his working paper “Do We Need to Protect Intellectual Property Rights1?”, Vladimir Popov notes that it was demonstrated that protecting IPR can have a negative effect on a country’s economic development. The author notes that there is also a strong negative effect of stricter regime of protection of IPR on the proliferation of computers.
Here I’ll quote distinguished economist Fritz Machlup from his 1958 study on the economics of patent system.
If we did not have a patent system, it would be irresponsible, on the basis of our present knowledge of its economic consequences, to recommend instituting one. But since we have had a patent system for a long time, it would be irresponsible, on the basis of our present knowledge, to recommend abolishing it.
Despite the contradiction to IPR protection, it can be safely deduced that protection of IPR has more advantages than disadvantages. In short, if we don’t like our property to be stolen, we must protect it. Same is the case with intellectual property. So the next time you download a song illegally or copy an article without giving due reference, stop and think – would you like to be a thief?
Photo courtesy : Google Images 6N5B9ERQTD63
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