Intellectual Property (IP) simply refers to the creation of the mind. It refers to the possession of thought or design by the one who came up with it. It offers the owner of any inventive design or any form of distinct work some exclusive rights, that make it unlawful to copy or reuse that work without the owner’s permission. It is a part of property law. People associated with literature, music, invention, etc. can use it in business practices.
Numerous types of tools of protection come under the term “intellectual property”. Notable among these are the following:
- Geographical indications
- Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits
- Trade secrets
- Industrial Designs
When something is new or innovative, inventors have the right to safeguard their inventions by exercising their intellectual property rights. These rights allow the inventor to monopolize and benefit from their inventions monetarily while seeking credit for the invention. IPRs are akin to tangible assets that may be purchased, sold or licensed while the owner of the IPR has the monopoly over the innovation for a specific period. They can be sought in various categories which include patents, copyrights, designs, trademarks and trade secrets. In the case of intellectual property in cyberspace, IPRs are also applicable to database rights and domain names on the internet.
Cyberspace is the non-physical domain where numerous computers are connected through computer networks to establish communication between them. With the expansion of technology, cyberspace has come within reach of every individual. This fact led to the emergence of cyberspace as a business platform and hence increases pressure on Intellectual Property. Nowadays, cyber crimes do not solely limit themselves to fraud, cyberbullying, and identity thefts but also an infringement of copyrights and trademarks of various businesses and other organizations. Online content needs to be protected and hence Intellectual Property Rights and Cyber laws cannot be separated.
In cyberspace, sometimes one person makes a profit by using another person’s creation without the owner’s consent. This is a violation of privacy, and it is protected by IPR. We have certain laws to avoid violation of Intellectual Property Rights in cyberspace and when it is violated, then additionally we have several remedies in law.
- IP in Cyber Space and Patents
Inventors register for patents which allows them to monopolize their inventions for a limited time. Typically, a patent can be filed when an invention is new and involves a level of creativity, not explored before. Unfortunately, IP on the web, including computer programs are currently not patentable. While innovators may patent new machine tools, non-technological inventions cannot be patented. For instance, software that helps to check grammar. Innovators of new machine tools can apply for patents and seek monetary benefits by entering licensing deals.
- IP in Cyberspace and Copyrights
Copyrights can be sought for any original, creative material, irrespective of the form – whether it is music, literary or artistic works. Copyrights can be sought regardless of the medium as they typically cover the expression of the idea; not the idea. In the case of intellectual property on the web, with specific reference to software; any software held on a computer typically should be copied – whether it is done on the machine on which the software was created or from a specific storage medium. However, to copy the software, the consent of the individual or company holding its copyright is necessary. Essentially, this consent is provided in the form of a license agreement between the owner of the copyright and the software user. However, if someone obtains a pirated version of the software, then copyrights are breached when the software is transferred illegally.
- IP in Cyber Space and Trademarks
Trademarks are simply defined as images or signs used to identify a brand or certain products of a company. A trademark helps distinguish one company from another and essentially functions as a badge, identifying the brand. Anyone wishing to register a trademark must ensure that it is distinct. You may also apply for trademark protections in the web space but this protection applies only to the trade mark and not the goods and/or services provided under the trademark.
- IP in Cyber Space and Design Rights
Design rights may or may not be registered. Even if a design right is unregistered, prohibitions are automatically applicable on copying or reproducing the design of a given product. However, reproductions cannot be stopped, especially if they are not exact. Inventors may register their designs i.e., their appearance at the patent office and avail the monopoly that legally prohibits others from copying the designs. Concerning intellectual property in websites, designs fundamentally refer to the physical characteristics of a given product, thus ruling out an application to software per se. Instead, it applies to a particular device consisting of software.
- IP in Cyber Space and Data Base Rights
With regard to the contents and the arrangements of the database, database rights are almost identical to copyrights. Database, therefore is generally considered as a literary work and in case of extracts are to be made from the database, then copyright rules would be applicable. In case one wishes to use a database commercially, one needs to seek the approval of the individual owning the copyrights.
- IP Rights in Cyberspace and Internet Domain Names
With more brands offering online services, trademarks are being registered more often than ever in the form of internet domain names. Miscreants often register domain names by paying a small price and resort to ‘cybersquatting’ in an attempt to extort huge sums of money from already existing and legitimate businesses. To combat this ‘cybersquatting’ the Universal Domain Name Dispute Resolution Procedure was introduced by the UK in 2000. This procedure allows a trademark owner to file a complaint against domain names, especially those that are confusingly similar. The procedure allows the trademark owner to essentially prove that a domain name owner has no legal rights or interests in the trademark, showing that the domain name is registered in bad faith to extort money.
As is apparent, intellectual property in cyberspace applies just as easily as it does to traditional forms of IP applications. That said; there need to be much more concrete rules in place, allowing website and IP owners on the internet and cyberspace to protect their IPs, especially when it comes to protecting software or taking stricter steps against ‘cybersquatting’. With the growth of Cyberspace and technological advancements, copyright and trademarks are not limited to the usual intellectual property alone but have spread to intellectual property rights over the internet. Cyberspace is becoming a hub for intellectual property rights infringement. Several practices by the cyber site operators resulted in the violation of intellectual property rights and various other rights of other website operators. It has become crucial that people are aware of the illegal usage of their websites and web pages.
International conventions and treaties have provided various laws to protect infringement of IPRs online which are helping e-commerce and e-businesses to grow. However, the Information technology Act does not provide any provisions in respect of crimes related to IPR, cyberstalking, cyber defamation, etc.
Also, the Indian Trademark Act, of 1999 and Copyright Act, of 1957 are silent on issues of online Trademark and Copyright infringement. Though computer programs are protected under the Copyright Act, of 1957, it does not provide remedies for cyber piracy.