This article has been written by Shubhi Jain pursuing a Diploma in US Contract Drafting and Paralegal Studies from LawSikho.

This article has been edited and published by Shashwat Kaushik.


It is an established fact that the property of a person needs to be protected and his interests in the property need to be secured, but when we think about property, most people only consider tangible property such as houses, goods, etc. But‘ anything that a person owns or has a legal title over’ can be defined as property. In this way, property can be of two types- tangible property, i.e., property that has a physical existence and intangible property, i.e., property that has no physical existence and so cannot be touched or held. 

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Intellectual property is an intangible asset of a person that is a product of his creativity or intellect, i.e., he has applied some mental labour to it. Whereas intellectual property in itself is intangible, it needs to be expressed in tangible forms in order for it to be given legal protection. For example, when an author comes up with the idea of new novel, his thoughts regarding the plot, the characters, etc. are all his intellectual property but the same cannot be protected unless these ideas are expressed in written form.

These intangible assets are vulnerable without legal protection, making them easy prey for anyone looking to take advantage of the labours of others. The creators are cheated out of their just compensation when their inventions, artwork, and brands are imitated.

However, having legal protection is more important than just getting paid. It encourages creativity by giving creators the confidence to take chances because they know their work will be appreciated. Moreover, communities as a whole are protected by law, not just individual artists. Cultures thrive and identities are maintained when traditional expressions and indigenous knowledge are safeguarded.

Essentially, intellectual property law is an essential social safety net rather than a legal formality. It safeguards not just artists’ creations but also the fundamental spirit of ingenuity.

Types of IPR recognized by law 

Depending on the nature of the work or creation, intellectual property can be classified into various categories. The common legally recognised types of intellectual property rights are as follows-


Copyrights are exclusive rights granted to the authors or owners of literary and artistic works. Copyrights are granted for the following kinds of work-

  • Literary works such as novels, poems, articles, etc.
  • Artistic works like paintings or photographs.
  • Dramatic works, including theatre productions and screenplays.
  • Musical works like music compositions or songs
  • Cinematography and sound recordings.

Copyrights ensure that the author has a sole right over the creation, its reproduction, distribution, translation and adaptation. This not only preserves the original idea by protecting it against distortion and mutilation but also safeguards the author by giving him the right to consent or disallow sale and presentation of his work.


A trademark can be defined as a distinctive sign, design or expression that indicates the source of the products and sets it apart from others. It helps the consumer identify the origin of the goods and thus indicates their nature and quality. It is based on the concept of goodwill and ensures healthy competition in the market. On seeing the trademark, a person immediately associates the product with the brand that created it.  

Trademark includes-

  • Shapes, e.g. Coca cola bottle;
  • Including slogans and taglines, e.g., Nike’s “ Just do it”;
  • Colours, e.g. Tiffany Blue;
  • Logos, e.g. Apple; and
  • Sounds for, e.g., Nokia ringtone.

Geographical indication

Geographical symbol refers to any name, symbol or logo that is used to indicate the place of origin of a particular product. It signifies that the product has certain characteristics attributable to the geographical region where it is produced. This can be owed to the climate, traditional knowledge, methods of production, etc. As GI is granted to a community, this right is shared by all members of the community. It helps to promote traditional goods and preserve their integrity and reputation by protecting the product from imitation. Eg- Darjeeling tea, Alphonso mangoes, etc 


A patent is the exclusive right of an inventor over the use, manufacture and sale of his invention. It gives the patent holder the right to gain monopolistic economic and commercial benefits accrued from his invention. The patent holder may give a licence to use the invention to any other person through a contract. For it to qualify as a patent, the invention must be a novelty, i.e., original, it must be an inventive step; and it needs to have some industrial applicability. Hence, to become patentable, it must provide an innovative or unique method of doing something and hold some utility. A patent must be registered and is granted for a period of 20 years, after which it enters public domain. It incentivises research and technological innovation by addressing the free rider problem and ensuring that the creator has a sole right over the invention for the patent period.  

Industrial design

It protects the visual aesthetic of an object, including its shape, configuration, pattern, ornament, composition of lines or colours, and any such combinations. It protects the appeal and artistic value of the innovative design of an object but need not have any utility. A design must be registered in order to get protection under the law. This protection applies for an initial period of 5 years and can be renewed for 15 years. 

Importance of IPR

A creator or author of any work invests huge amounts of time, capital and labour into his innovation. Despite this, there is no guarantee that the project will succeed and make profits. It may take several attempts before the desired end product is achieved. Hence, it is necessary to compensate the original creator of the work and ensure that others do not free ride on the commercial benefits of his creation. For this purpose, intellectual property rights are put in place to protect the creator by providing him with monopolistic authority over his innovation. The importance of IPR can be elucidated as follows:

Incentivises innovation 

IPR assures the holder of the rights that he shall accrue the benefits of his creation and incentivises further investments in innovative endeavours. If the creation becomes free for use in the public domain and the creator gets no exclusive rights over his work, it would demotivate him from future investments in such projects.

Return on investment

A creator invests great amounts of time, effort, labour and capital into their project during its progress. IPR allows the creator of the work to be compensated for this investment by gaining monopolistic economic rights on the profits accrued from its creation.

Competitive edge

IPR allows the creator to hold exclusive rights over his creation for a specified time period during which other market players cannot manufacture or trade in the protected product and are also restricted from copying it, providing the creator with a competitive edge over others in the industry. Hence, the creator can control the market and enjoy the profits before others can catch up.

Knowledge dissemination

IPR fosters an environment for the exchange of information that is free from fear of being copied. It addresses the free rider problem and also acts as a solution to the issue of the information paradox relating to the controlled sharing of confidential information, which is essential for collaborative research projects. Protecting the original source of information also protects the originality and integrity of the information shared.

Consumer protection

IPR ensures that consumers can reliably identify genuine products and differentiate them from counterfeits. It ensures that the goodwill created by brands is not misused and safeguards brand reputation by preventing copycats from diluting or damaging it. It protects the confidence of consumers against misuse and allows them to put their trust in brands.

Protects cultural heritage

IPR protects traditional knowledge and safeguards cultural identity and diversity by preserving its true source. It protects artistic expressions, and cultural artefacts from misappropriation and ensures they are passed on to future generations without compromising on their authenticity.

Why intellectual properties require legal protection

Legal protection for IP is essential in India for several reasons:

  1. Encouraging innovation and creativity: IP protection provides incentives for individuals and businesses to invest time, effort, and resources in creating new and innovative products, designs, and works of art. Knowing that their creations will be legally protected encourages them to take risks and push the boundaries of their creativity.
  2. Promoting economic growth: IP protection fosters economic growth by creating a favourable environment for investment and job creation. When businesses can confidently invest in IP-protected products and services, they are more likely to expand their operations, hire more employees, and contribute to the overall economy.
  3. Protecting consumers: IP protection ensures that consumers have access to high-quality and authentic products and services. It prevents counterfeit goods and pirated content from flooding the market, which can harm consumers’ health, safety, and finances.
  4. Fostering a culture of respect: Legal protection for IP promotes a culture of respect for the rights of creators and innovators. It acknowledges that their creations are valuable and worthy of recognition and compensation.
  5. Preserving cultural heritage: IP protection helps preserve India’s rich cultural heritage by safeguarding traditional knowledge, folklore, and artistic expressions. It ensures that these valuable assets are not exploited or misappropriated without proper recognition and compensation.
  6. Complying with international obligations: India is a signatory to various international treaties and agreements related to IP protection, such as the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Legal protection for IP is crucial to comply with these obligations and maintain good standing in the global community.
  7. Promoting healthy competition: IP protection fosters healthy competition by encouraging businesses to differentiate their products and services through innovation. It prevents unfair competition based on the unauthorised use of others’ IP, creating a level playing field for all market participants.
  8. Protecting trade secrets: IP protection safeguards trade secrets, which are valuable confidential information that gives businesses a competitive advantage. Legal protection prevents unauthorised disclosure or use of trade secrets, ensuring that businesses can maintain their competitive edge.
  9. Fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing: IP protection can facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing among businesses, researchers, and institutions. It enables the exchange of ideas, technologies, and creative works while ensuring that the rights of the creators are respected.
  10. Promoting access to knowledge: Legal protection for IP can contribute to public access to knowledge by encouraging the dissemination of research findings, scientific discoveries, and educational materials. It ensures that valuable information is not suppressed or restricted, benefiting society as a whole.

Laws for protection of Intellectual property in India

In India, a comprehensive framework of laws and regulations exists to safeguard intellectual property (IP) rights, fostering innovation, creativity, and economic growth.

The Patents Act, 1970:

  • Governs the grant and protection of patents for inventions, safeguarding the rights of inventors by providing them with exclusive rights for a limited period and ensuring that their inventions are not used without their consent.
  • Promotes innovation by encouraging inventors to disclose their inventions and make them available to the public, leading to technological advancements and economic growth.
  • Facilitates technology transfer and industrial development by allowing inventors to license their patents to other businesses or individuals, promoting collaboration and commercialization of new technologies.

The Copyright Act, 1957:

  • Protects the rights of authors, artists, and other creators of literary, artistic, and musical works, ensuring they are fairly compensated for their creations and encouraging cultural expression.
  • Covers a wide range of works, including books, films, music, paintings, sculptures, and architecture, providing a comprehensive framework for copyright protection.
  • Ensures fair compensation for creators by granting them exclusive rights to control the reproduction, distribution, and public performance of their works, promoting a sustainable creative economy.

The Trademarks Act, 1999:

  • Regulates the registration and protection of trademarks, which are distinctive signs used to identify goods or services, preventing unauthorised use and protecting the goodwill and reputation of businesses.
  • Facilitates consumer recognition by ensuring that trademarks are unique and not misleading, allowing consumers to make informed choices based on brand reputation.
  • Promotes fair competition by preventing businesses from using confusingly similar trademarks, fostering a level playing field for all market participants.

The Designs Act, 2000:

  • Safeguards the rights of designers by protecting the aesthetic appearance of products, encouraging originality, creativity, and the development of visually appealing products.
  • Covers industrial designs, applied art, and traditional knowledge-based designs, promoting the preservation and utilisation of cultural heritage in product design.
  • Promotes economic growth by fostering a vibrant design industry, enhancing the competitiveness of businesses through innovative and distinctive product appearances.

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

  • Protects the unique geographical indications associated with specific regions, such as Darjeeling tea or Kashmir saffron, ensuring that these products are authentic and of a consistent quality.
  • It prevents the unauthorised use of these indications, preserves the reputation and quality of regional products, and supports local economies.
  • Promotes rural development and traditional knowledge by recognising the collective efforts of communities in creating and maintaining unique products linked to their geographical origin.

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001:

  • Provides protection for new plant varieties, encouraging research and development in agriculture by offering intellectual property rights to plant breeders.
  • Recognises the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange, and sell their seeds, ensuring that farmers have access to a diverse range of seeds and can continue traditional farming practices.
  • Promotes sustainable agriculture and food security by encouraging the development of new crop varieties that are resistant to pests, diseases, and climate change, and by supporting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act, 2000:

  • Protects the layout designs of integrated circuits, which are essential for the electronics industry, by preventing unauthorised copying and promoting innovation in chip design.
  • Encourages investment in research and development by providing a legal framework that safeguards the intellectual property rights of chip designers.
  • Fosters technological advancement and competitiveness in the electronics sector by facilitating the commercialization of new and innovative chip designs.

These laws collectively contribute to India’s commitment to intellectual property protection, fostering a conducive environment for creativity, innovation, and economic development.

Theories for justification of IPR

Theories of justification shed light on why legal protection inventions and creations is crucial. These theories illuminate the complex interplay between individual rights and societal benefits. They argue for rewarding creators, fostering innovation, and ultimately, propelling progress for all.

Labour theory or natural rights theory

This theory was propounded by John Locke and provides that if a person applies his labour, i.e., time, effort, money or intellect, to any property or resource and, in doing so, changes its form, then he must receive natural ownership rights over the property as a product of his labour. It is based on the principle that everyone has a natural right to their ideas and so a creator becomes the natural owner of his creation and gains exclusive rights to it.

Utilitarian theory

It is based on Jeremy Bentham’s principle of “greatest good for the greatest number” and focuses on public welfare. It can be applied to intellectual property rights to the extent that they are necessary for incentivising creators and inventors, which in turn accelerates innovation and, consequently, accelerates progress. It advocates for restricted or limited rights over intellectual property in order to create a balance between the advancement of society and the exclusive rights of creators.

Personality theory

This theory is based on the works of Emmanual Kant and Hegel. It elucidates that the intellectual property of a person is the external manifestation of his personality and so the creator must be empowered to protect the same. It draws on the fact that the work of an author stems from his will and can be associated with his identity, so it states personality as the basis of abstract rights.


One thing that becomes abundantly evident as we learn more about intellectual property rights (IPR) is that legal protection is not just a legal concept; rather, it is the driving force behind human advancement. IPR creates the conditions for innovation to thrive, from the theories that support it to the practical uses it has across a wide range of businesses.

The complex web of intellectual property rights (IPR), which includes patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other protections for creative works, encourages innovators to devote their skills to expanding the field of knowledge. It encourages a free and open market where creativity can flourish without worrying about being copied.

In addition to being economically significant, IPR protects cultural legacy and identity. For example, geographical indicators safeguard the distinctive identity of regional communities, and indigenous knowledge is shielded from exploitation.

However, legal protection is not simply an abstract right. To effectively prevent infringement and protect the sanctity of these rights, strong enforcement measures and international collaboration are required. By defending intellectual property, we are defending the basic foundation of human advancement.



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