27 Feb 2008

Why Intellectual Property? (Expert's Corner)

As we had promised, we finally start with our expert articles. [click here for more on that] The first article on this is by Mr. Rahul Dutta, founder of 'Intellectual Property Lab'. [For further information on this regard or for contacting him, kindly visit IP Lab website.] In his first post, Mr. Dutta writes in simplest of terms as to why we need Intellectual Property.

Why Intellectual Property?

Intellectual capability of human beings makes them the best creation of nature. This intellectual capability has played a great role in the development of human civilizations. We owe our food and taste of food to the inventor of fire. We owe our modes of transportation to the inventor of wheel. The list of valuable inventions is endless but the result of which made our lives comfortable and more efficient. Every invention has two aspects- innovation aspect and the commercialization of the innovation. Hence development of a product indicates towards blessings of goddess of intelligence and goddess of wealth. Truly, intellectual property is nothing else but blessings of intelligence and wealth.

We learn from our experience and society. We made our contribution from our original learning and thus enrich knowledge base of our society. This was how societies were progressing. Knowledge was accessible to all. Hence it was called public knowledge domain. Gradually concept of property came in and proved herself a subject of privilege to her owner. This later on ignited a race for winning more and more property. The positive aspect of it was that though people started with physical capabilities sooner or later realized importance of intellectual faculties in winning more and more property. Introduction of intellectual faculty started monopoly in knowledge and creation of private knowledge domains.

Since private knowledge domains were subject matter of wealth creation, people who had no right to access to those private domains tried to steal the knowledge from private knowledge domains. This forced private knowledge domain owners to keep private knowledge secret. This stopped or slowed the flow of knowledge and contribution of generations to the existing public knowledge domain. We have seen that civilizations developed due to the enrichment of existing public knowledge domain. This situation halted the process of development of civilization. This forced the requirement for development of legal system for protecting private knowledge domain and restarts the flow of knowledge.

One man's right is obligation for others to honour his right. It means creation of legal rights requires balancing rights-obligations equations. The challenge was to restore the flow of knowledge from private knowledge domains to public knowledge domain and bring an acceptable legal regime for protecting rights of private knowledge domain holders. It was solved by offering time bound monopoly over the new knowledge created by any one through intellectual labor to win economical benefits out of it and pass on the knowledge to the public knowledge domain after the expiry of monopoly time. Public at large was supposed to respect the monopoly knowledge rights because they in turn were exploiting the benefits of the knowledge by paying a fee for the monopoly duration and later on after expiry of monopoly the knowledge was to be transferred into public knowledge domain. The monopoly owners were offered the exclusive rights to fetch economical benefits out of their knowledge by introducing the knowledge in public. This balanced the rights-obligations equations. This system gave birth to patent, trademark, copyright, geographical indication, industrial design, trade secret and integrated circuit layout design. These seven tools form modern intellectual property rights tool.

Follow-up: The next article in this series by Mr. Dutta will be on 'Patents'.

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