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Intellectual Property – Ownership, Rights And Complications Associated With It

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Intellectual Property (IP) is the formal and legal way of giving ownership and rights to a person for a creation, an innovation or an idea. However, while having the rights to a piece of IP can prove beneficial both to the owner and the society in general, there are many complications, steps and necessary procedures that need to be taken. This research presents the basic concepts of intellectual property and copyright, as well as detailed break-down of possible problems that often appear, along with how said problems need to be addressed on several levels, such as financially or ethically. This study will aim to provide inventors, artists and entrepreneurs with the necessary knowledge in order to address legal issues regarding intellectual property, as well as to explain to each one what their rights and obligations are towards said piece of IP. As such, this paper seeks to minimize the number of possible obstacles that people need to face regarding IP and this will in turn benefit the rights owner, contributors and the society as a whole.

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What is intellectual property, industrial property and copyright?

Intellectual property includes any new creation, any new idea that an individual or a group of, developed from the ground up. These new ideas or creations include, but are not limited to, new inventions, new works of art, new theories, or even images and symbols. Intellectual property is mainly separated into two groups: Industrial property and Copyright. While industrial property is focused on new patents and industrial designs and inventions, and credit their innovator, Copyright covers literary and artistic works, such as music, novels, or even architectural designs, and include the right for such works to be broadcast or replicated, whether for commercial or private use. 

What are the rights to intellectual property?

Intellectual property rights allow creators, inventors or entrepreneurs actual ownership to their own work, also to benefit from it, not just financially but also in terms of recognition or reputation, and to give a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment to its’ owners. IP rights protect the ownership of such ideas and creations and protect one’s right to benefit from his work. 

Why is intellectual property important and why should it be promoted and protected?

Having rights to intellectual property is beneficial both to the owner of the patent or idea or any piece of work, but also to society. Even since ancient times, the only way for us humans to evolve and arrive to today’s standards was through new ideas and innovations, for example many theorems like the Pythagoras’ Theorem, it was a breakthrough at its’ time and a result of combined effort from other ideas and theorems before it, and now, that Theorem is the basis from which many other ideas and creations have spawned from, and the essence of Trigonometry. In that sense, it is mankind’s obligation to commit to developing new works and technologies, but the people who contribute in humanity’s advancement and progress need to be protected and rewarded, so having ownership and intellectual property rights to their work not only does exactly that, but also motivates both them and other up-and-coming inventors to research and commit to further innovation. This growth eventually leads to a flourishing economy, higher standards and quality of life; thus, society benefits and advances, but on a lower and more basic level, how does the average person profit? Examples include industries and firms now worth multi-billions; they are the ones that bring this significant improvement to life’s standards and quality. Without advancement in arts, film, music, and literature, life would be boring and dull, not to mention and we wouldn’t be able to broaden our horizons so these bring pleasure to everyone, something that wouldn’t be possible without intellectual property rights. In addition, IP rights provide in a sense a ‘’seal of quality and authenticity’’ – patents and products would be massively reproduced otherwise and quite possibly cheaply replicated and of very low quality, and as such consumers would not trust the market or what it has to offer, and so intellectual property rights protect a consumer’s rights just as much as the patent’s owner’s rights, as well as combat piracy and forgery of false goods. 

What is a patent and what is an industrial design?

Patents are rights granted for an invention, of technological kind, that may provide a solution to an already existing problem or provide a different and more efficient way to do something. Patents give their inventors rights and protect their inventions for up to 20 years, and as previously stated, provide motivation to others to create their own unique inventions. While patents are focusing on the functionality and practical use of an invention, industrial designs focus on aesthetics and very rarely its’ use- this may include shape or color of an item, or even any patterns, and include from jewelry and accessories to architectural designs to even houseware and leisure goods. Patent protection prohibits the commercial use, distribution or selling of said patent without the patent holder’s approval, and counters patent infringement, and the owner can decide who can use the invention while it is protected, and grant permission to others to make use of their work on terms that both the owner and the one who seeks to make use of said patent have agreed on. An invention to be patented must have at least an aspect that is innovative, in other words not to have been created or implemented before, called ‘’the inventive step’’ while the basis and knowledge that was already available is called ‘’prior art’’. On the other hand, industrial designs need to be original ideas and most importantly non-functional, which is the exact opposite of a patent, that is based on practical use. 

IP Rights addressing Universities and Corporations and PRI

Universities, Corporations and PRIs (Public Research Institution) also implement and have their own rights in IP. Such institutions main objective is research and development and they are almost always the leaders of innovation and primary source of new ideas. As such they implement their IP rights to protect what their research has produced so far but also to fund further work. They produce many academic reports and papers, and present potential new patents and inventions, and other projects. That is more than often produced not solely but as a collaboration project from other individuals, firms and corporations, or the government. In such cases, everyone has contributed a share of the work that produced the result and therefore everyone would potentially have IP rights on the work produced. So, in cases like these, before the actual research starts there are negotiations between all participating parties where these issues are dealt beforehand and collaboration agreements are established, for instance, issues in confidentiality and privacy, potential interest conflicts and most importantly, the actual ownership of the intellectual property. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, “a conflict of interest is a situation in which an individual’s financial, professional or other personal considerations may affect his or her professional judgment in exercising any university/PRI duty”. It is also important to note that for a work to be patentable, not only it must be innovative, but no information about it must be disclosed to others than the contributing parties about the work before filing a patent application. That is because of most countries having the Universal Novelty Requirement to be a must – in other words, information that was released before is not considered new, and as such something ‘’not new’’ does not conform to the patent application requirements and hence cannot become a patent, only something unreleased to the public before can be taken into consideration to become a patent. The WIPO states that a presence of a formal document is necessary in every collaboration; it regulates and guides decisions regarding IP and balances the ownership and IP rights between shareholders in a university and commercialization partners. Overall, the existence of an IP policy serves to meet several objectives: to ensure legal certainty and security, promote research and development, sort out potential conflicts between society and developing industry or university, and ensure that all work complies to national laws and is ethically and morally legal.

Joint Ownership of Intellectual Property

As previously stated, in cases where more than one party have invested and help develop a certain piece of work then this is known as a case of Joint Ownership of Intellectual Property, where the rights are shared between all parties. Only ‘’active’’ contribution is taken into account when finalizing and determining each associated member’s contribution to the project; in other words, each member must at least provide results of any form as proof of their work, while just efforts do not suffice to give someone intellectual property rights. Then, the contributing members, their rights, and terms and conditions of this partnership must be clearly recorded and stated, along with the resulting IP ownership in what is known as a ‘’joint IP ownership agreement’’. 

How IP affects (small) businesses and the Intellectual Property Act 2014

The Intellectual Property Act 2014 was designed on May 2014 and finally enforced in October 2014 as an improvement and modernization of the previous UK laws regarding intellectual property, by bring the UK IP law in sync with current EU legislation and helps strengthen businesses IP rights both locally and abroad. There were several main points of change in this Act, always focusing on the UK pursuing its global and unified IP interests. It tried to change the legislation by making it less restrictive in some areas but more strict in others, starting by separating IP legislation with objective evidence, that according to Ian Hargreaves, the person who suggested this change, and refers to ‘’information based on facts that can be proved through means of research’’. Intellectual Property Act 2014 also introduces changes directed to design and patent law, transforming the previous legislation, that was considered ‘’complex and messy’’, into a simpler and more effective version, and many of these are targeted toward businesses. These include the introduction of a new criminal offence, making the intentional copying of an IP protected design for the purpose of recreating an identical copy or something immaterially different illegal. It also addresses the private use of unregistered designs and the scope of an unregistered design rights, by providing protection to someone accused of infringing an unregistered design for private or non-commercial use, and also stating that owners of unregistered designs are now given the right to reproduce said design for commercial purposes. In addition, patents including web addresses will also benefit from the protection offered by the legislation if the connection between patent and webpage is clearly depicted. Now the IPO can share unpublished patent applications with other patent offices and expanded their service to a bigger range of patent arguments.

Problems concerning Intellectual Property

It has already been mentioned what effects Intellectual Property rights have on society, but how does it affect the inventors themselves and generally those directly associated with it? Without correct IP ownership and rights, or without them altogether, then everyone would be able to freely access anyone’s research and claim it as their own. This is in a sense nothing more than stealing, however it would be perfectly within what the law deems legal – so no one would suffer any repercussions. Consequently, this would demoralize the real inventors as they won’t benefit for their work – for one, they would not be recognized for their efforts and hard work in creating something that can potentially lead to huge improvements in life quality, nor would they receive any economic benefit from the fruits of their work. In addition, when many have access to a said invention and try to replicate and sell it, there is also the issue of counterfeiting, and when everyone can claim that theirs is the original design then it creates confusion both among the creators and the masses, so not knowing what is trustworthy and what is not won’t just result in an economic downward spiral of low sales but also in the pause of progress and advancement, in other words, creators would not be able to receive funding to further their research. 

References

  • https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/intproperty/450/wipo_pub_450.pdf
  • https://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/universities_research/ip_policies/faqs/index.html
  • https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=nmKCBAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=intellectual+property&ots=ciH4I-oPcE&sig=AggPCCHJMTOgBFAYGTqRhxnEHAs&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false , Intellectual Property Law 4th Edition, by Lionel Bently and Brad Sherman, pages 664-668)
  • https://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/universities_research/ip_policies/
  • https://www.upcounsel.com/joint-ownership-of-intellectual-property
  • https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre/articles/how-does-the-intellectual-property-act-2014-affect-me-and-my-business
  • https://www.copyrightevidence.org/evidence-wiki/index.php/Hargreaves_(2011)
  • http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/objective-evidence.html
  • https://definitions.uslegal.com/o/objective-evidence/
  • https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/intproperty/489/wipo_pub_489.pdf
10 Jun 2021

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