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How to Protect Your Intellectual Property in India: Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents

Updated: Mar 27

What is Intellectual Property, and what is Intellectual Property Protection?

Intellectual Property is a broad categorisation of intangible assets that are the creation of a person’s mind. Intellectual Property cannot be held, it does not have a physical presence and is simply the idea/creation of an individual or company. Intellectual Property can take any form including written work, musical work, artwork, symbols, designs, logos, brand names, etc. 


Protection of Intellectual Property is based on the principle that even products of human intellect should be protected with the same rights as those of physical properties. Intellectual Property Infringement occurs when a third party uses a product of another’s intellect without authorization. To generate value from one’s intellectual property while also ensuring that any other person does not generate any unauthorized value is a very important aspect of protecting intellectual property. Legal protections for most intellectual property expire after some time but last forever for others.

Intellectual Property Laws in India

What are Intellectual Property Laws in India:

In India, there are 7 types of intellectual property rights, namely – copyright, trademarks, patents, geographical indications, plant varieties, industrial designs and semiconductor integrated circuit layout designs. India is also a signatory to various international agreements related to intellectual property, such as the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), which is administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO). TRIPS sets minimum standards for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, and member countries, including India, are obligated to comply with its provisions. Connect with our team for help with Legal Matters


What is the need for protection of Intellectual Property?

The objective behind providing Intellectual Property Rights is to encourage the creativity of the human mind for the benefit of all and to ensure that the benefits arising from exploiting a creation benefit the creator. It empowers individuals, enterprises, or other entities to exclude others from the use of their creations without their consent. 

IPR is a strong tool, to protect the investment, time, money, and effort invested by the inventor/creator of the IP, as it gives the inventor/creator an exclusive right for a certain period of time for the use of its invention/creation. Thus, IPR affects the economic development of a country by promoting healthy competition and encouraging industrial growth and economic growth.

Copyrights

Copyrights Act, 1957

Trademarks

Trade Marks Act, 1999

Patents

Patents Act, 1970

Geographical Indications

Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999

Plant Varieties

Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001

Industrial Designs

Designs Act, 2000

Semiconductor Circuit Layout Designs

Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout- Design Act, 2000

Types of Intellectual Property Rights In India: In India, there are 7 types of intellectual property rights, namely – copyright, trademarks, patents, geographical indications, plant varieties, industrial designs and semiconductor integrated circuit layout designs. 


Trademarks: A trademark is a mark capable of being represented graphically and distinguishing the goods and services of one person from those of others. It includes the shape of goods, their packaging, and a combination of colors. Trademarks are governed by The Trademarks Act of 1999. The essentials for applying for a trademark are a) a mark capable of distinguishing the goods/services of one from another, b) it should be graphically presentable. The Trade Marks Act provides for absolute grounds of refusal of registration such as, a) the mark not having a distinctive character; b) a mark being deceptive and confusing to the public; c) if a mark is hurtful to religious sentiments; d) the mark is offensive, scandalous, or obscure, etc. In addition to the absolute grounds of refusal, the statute also provides for relative grounds of refusal of registration (such as similarity with pre-existing marks). In terms of validity, a trademark is valid for 10 years and is subject to renewal.

Patents: A patent is a form of intellectual property right that protects any new invention. It grants the inventor exclusive rights of the inventor and prevents other third parties from unauthorized use and misappropriation of the registered patent. It is governed by the Patents Act of 1970. A patent is typically granted for a term of 20 years. It can only be registered for an original or novel invention and cannot be issued for inventions already in the public domain in India or worldwide. To be granted a patent, an invention must involve inventive steps, defined as a feature that represents a technical advance compared to existing knowledge or has economic significance, making it non-obvious to a person skilled in the art. The Patents Act 1970 bestows each inventor, whose patent has been registered, with certain rights, namely:

  • concerning a patent for a product, the right to prevent third parties from using, selling, making, importing, etc. the product without prior consent; and

  • concerning a process for which a patent is obtained, the right to prevent third parties from using, selling, offering, etc. a product obtained from that process, without the prior consent of the original inventor.

  • Copyrights: Copyright protects the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself. It covers 'original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works; cinematograph films; sound recordings; and computer programs'. Copyright is an exclusive right granted to a person to perform or authorize certain activities related to the copyrighted work. It is governed by the Copyright Act of 1957. The Copyright Act, under section 17, clearly states that the author of the original work (for which protection under copyright has been obtained) shall be the first owner of the work. Further, the owner has the right to license the copyright of their work to third parties through a written agreement.  In the case of published literary works, dramatical works and artistic works, copyright protection shall be provided to such works for a term of 60 (60) years in addition to the life of the author. 


The Design Act, 2000: The definition of a "design" is defined as "only the features of shape, configuration, pattern, ornaments, or composition of lines or colors, applied to any article whether in two dimensional or three dimensional or in both forms, by any industrial process or means, whether manual, mechanical or chemical, separate or combined, which in the finished article appeal to and are judged solely by the eye."  To be eligible for registration, a design must meet three requirements: (a) it must be unique and original, meaning that no one else has produced it or copied it; (b) it must not have been made public in India or elsewhere outside its territorial jurisdiction; and (c) it must be easily distinguishable from other well-known designs. Moreover, protection for the registered proprietor of a design is granted for ten (10) years upon registration; this time can be further extended for an additional five (five) years by filing an application for extension.


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The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999: Due to their origin, several products in India enjoy great popularity. A "geographical indication" is defined as "an indication which identifies such goods as agricultural goods, natural goods, or manufactured goods as originating, or manufactured in the territory of country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin, and in case such goods are manufactured goods, one of the activities of either the production or of processing or preparation of the goods concerned takes place in such territory, region or locality as the case may be."Only goods like agricultural products, food items, handcrafted goods, manufactured goods, and natural goods are covered by this Act. When registering a good under this Act, an application must include a description of the class of goods, the specifics of the geographical indication's appearance, the map of the territory/area/country where the good originated, and an explanation of how the geographical indication influences the good's origin in terms of its quality, characteristics, and reputation.  Once a geographical indicator has been registered, it is protected for ten (10) years, after which it can be renewed and extended for further ten (10) years after the initial registration expires.


The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001: The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2007 aims to conserve plant variations and acknowledge the rights of Indian farmers, hence promoting the production and proliferation of new plant types. This Act makes it possible for farmers, breeders, and other authorized individuals to apply for the registration of a new plant variety.  In order to be eligible for registration, a new plant variety must meet four requirements: novelty, distinctiveness, uniformity, and stability. Moreover, being distinctive means that a plant variety must possess at least one characteristic that sets it apart from all other protected and extant variations. All of the plant variety's fundamental qualities must be consistent in order to meet the uniformity requirement. The last requirement is that the plant variety being registered must be "stable," which means that even after repeated propagations, the plant variety's fundamental traits must not change.  For trees and vines, the registration is valid for nine (9) years, and for crops, it is good for six (6) years. These registrations can be renewed.

The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act, 2000: The definition of a "semiconductor integrated circuit" is "a product having transistors and other circuitry elements which are inseparably formed on a semiconductor material or an insulating material or inside the semiconductor material and designed to perform an electronic circuitry function.  All layout designs that meet the requirements of this Act in order to be registered must be original, financially unexploited both within India and in any country that has signed the convention, and intrinsically unique from other layout designs that have already been registered. The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Registry, which is located within the boundaries of the applicant's principal place of business, requires written applications for the registration of design layouts, which must be submitted to the Registrar. Layout designs that are registered are protected for a duration of ten (10) years.


How can you protect your Intellectual Property?

The greatest method to protect your Intellectual Property is to register it with the government, claim and enforce your ownership rights. However, except for registration and enforcement, you can protect certain types of intellectual property by:

  • Keeping a record of your findings, discoveries, methods, etc. in a properly dated and timed manner.

  • Trying out the management of Digital Rights.

  • Going for reliable and strong nondisclosure agreements.

  • Making secure access credentials.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding Intellectual Property rights in India:

Question) What are the 3 ways of protecting intellectual property?

Answer) The three most common ways of protecting intellectual property are Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents.


Question) What are the intellectual property protections in India?

Answer)  In India, there are 7 types of intellectual property rights, namely – copyright, trademarks, patents, geographical indications, plant varieties, industrial designs and semiconductor integrated circuit layout designs.


Question) How can I protect my Intellectual Idea?

Answer) The best method of protecting your Intellectual Idea is to register it with the government and claim and enforce your ownership rights.

Question) What are trademarks, copyrights, and patents, and how do they differ?

Answer) New ideas, methods, or scientific discoveries are protected by patents; brands, logos, and slogans are protected by trademarks; and original works of literature are protected by copyrights.


Question) How long do trademark, copyright, and patent protections last in India?

Answer) Though it must be renewed every ten years, a trademark is perpetual. A writer's copyright is valid for their lifetime plus an additional sixty years. Before they become public property, patents have a 20-year validity period.


Question) What should I do if I believe someone is infringing on my intellectual property rights in India?

Answer) Through the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) courts, an individual may file a claim for intellectual property infringement. In the event that an intellectual property infringement action is successful, the courts may grant a number of potential remedies, such as an account of profits, damages, or an injunction.

 

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