Patent Law - The Controversy

Intellectual property rights have always been a contentious issue. If you do not go through the right channels and protect your rights, you risk not only losing out on financial the financial rewards which are associated with coming up with the idea that changes the world, but you also miss out on what for most people, is the most important thing, having your name go down in history books and becoming immortal in a manner of speaking. As a result of this, there has been a trend in Latin America to apply for the broadest patent possible but this is not without problems. Recently there has been a lot of debate about whether or not patent law should be stricter in Latin America in order to prevent this from happening in the future. This article examines intellectual property protection in order to see whether or not stricter intellectual property laws should not be put in place.

What is Intellectual Property?

Before going into detail about the ins and outs of intellectual property protection, it helps knowing what it actually is, what the term means and what counts and does not count as intellectual property. Intellectual property can be almost anything, that’s what makes this section so important, from a trade secret recipe or chemical formula to a manufacturing process for a product launch to the countries in which you have patents, even logos, designs and are seen as intellectual property. The formal definition sees it as anything that is created in an individual’s mind which explains the broadness of the term. Legally, there are four broad categories of intellectual property which are listed below:

·         Patents – this covers tangible items and you need to register a patent with your government. Patents can be registered in multiple countries and can last as long as 20 years.

 

·         Trademarks – think of advertising. Names, phrases, symbols and sounds all fall under this under this form of intellectual property. Generally this is used in business and advertising in order to protect an organisation’s reputation. Patents generally last for ten years.

 

·         Copyrights – copyrights protect everything artistic. They protect books, songs and the right of the owner to make derivative works from the original work. Think of Life of Pi and the movie that came out of the book – the author has the right to receive compensation from the income that the movie makes. The creator does not however, have any rights over how the piece is interpreted – a death metal version of Mary had a Little Lamb is allowed. Copyrights normally last about 50 years.

 

·         Trade secrets – the recipe for KFC and Coca-Cola is a trade secret. The taste is in the formula and the reason the company does so well compared to its competitors. If an organisation takes the right measures to keep the secret safe, they could be legally protected for 117 years or more.

Intellectual Property Protection

grant patent challenges :So, the idea of intellectual property protection sounds like a fantastic one in principle. It keeps ideas safe and rewards those who put the time and effort into doing something others think is futile (discovering electricity and gravity are good examples). However, there have been instances where the right to intellectual property has been abused by a lot of people and businesses. By applying for intellectual property protection that is too broad, there is the very real risk that future generations will not want to put the time in to further science and progress as they know that they will not be rewarded properly. This then defeats the purpose of intellectual property protection. In cases like this grant patent protection applies. What normally occurs is that the new patent is examined against the original, older patent in order to see how similar both patents are.

In conclusion

If there are enough divergences, the newer patent will be granted. The process is a tricky one because those with the initial patent tend to argue that if it were not for their patent, the newer version would not exist. However, the same can be said for all forms of knowledge, we learn from one another. Patent law was created in order to prevent very similar or exact duplication of creations, not to prevent learning from one another. Many argue that the notion of patent law is obsolete in today’s technology driven and connected world and that the open sharing of information should be encouraged in order to further innovation. Whether or not this happens and what the ramifications will be remains to be seen.

 

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