The right to ownership has tremendously grown in various categories. One of the groundbreaking classifications of ownership is the intellectual property. The intellectual property law has shifted attention from the common protection of physical objects such as land to intangible assets like designs, inventions and artistic works. The idea is to secure and enforce legal protection of the intellectual potential, especially in this era where violation of intellectual property is extremely tempting given the technological advancement. This paper explores the concept of intellectual property law in depth and breadth.
A Brief History of Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual property law is not a new jargon. It dates back to the medieval tenure where the government allowed artistic associations to regulate and control their respective industries (Murray, Laura, Kirsty and Tina 10). The associations were referred to as guilds. The guild maintained integrity in the production, marketing and importing of ideas. They dictated what inventions could be introduced to the commerce and using what procedures. However, the challenge was that the guilds focused so much on exercising control that they were even suppressing creativity and innovation. Power was projected towards a selected few in an industry. The fact is that intellectual property law was then driven by political and religious pressures rather than creativity and innovation interests. For example, in 1555, the government of England established the Stationary Company which was mandated to control the print industry. The main intention to develop this monopolistic firm was to hamper the power of Protestant Reformation (Murray, Laura, Kirsty and Tina 22).
Over 80 years later, the guilds were broken to give room for Statute of Monopolies, a British law. The law disbanded the guilds and emphasized on strengthening the rights in line with the creators as opposed to selective industries (Merges 7). Upon the realization of independence, particularly by the US, countries began to develop their own copyright law. More so, courts, specifically the Federal court, played a pivotal role in revolutionizing this law. Following a series of cases related to intellectual property law, the Court modified the law necessarily. That is why the law is characterized by imperative terms such as contract law, mutual assent, considerations, and misappropriation. Contract law enforces promises and agreement between/among people. Once they accept the contract, this qualifies as a mutual assent. Consideration is when each person agrees to relinquish something in order to realize a resolve a conflict. Lastly, misappropriation is the wrongful application of someone else’s work for commercialization.
The Significant Shift of Intellectual Property Law
Today, this law is linked to almost all facets of like ranging from politics, business to science. It reflects a shift to an information economy. Importantly, the law has been shaped to not only protect creators but also serve as an incentive. The aim is to ensure their creators profit from their work by sidelining misappropriation from the very beginning. This will motivate the creators to willingly and potentially apply their intellectual, which in turn benefit the society. Hence, by safeguarding the commercialization of creators, the society also benefit in the long run. To enable the efficiency and effectiveness of this law, there are agencies granted the power regulate this area. The agencies are usually related to trademark, copyright and patent.
Trademarks are essential in the protection of names, symbols and slogans ideal for goods and services identification. That way, it is easier for customers to distinguish various brands from one another thus preventing confusing or misleading advertisements. It explains why general logos, pictures or words may not be accepted. The purpose for trademarks being to distinguish brands, it is paramount to have distinct features. Trademarks have impressively prevented the exploitation of customer’s goodwill by trading under the name of a particular logo, picture or the combination of both. It is worth noting that trademarks may not completely protect an individual in cases of related names, symbols or slogans. Infringement based on relatedness varies in degrees that are dictated in a civil action (Colston and Jonathan 15). The Internet domain is easily facilitating such cases.
Copyrights deal with intangible assets such as motion pictures, writings, music, architecture among other artistic expressions. The production of copyright is a factor of the creation act, which can be published or unpublished. Most often, it is punctuated with symbol and date of copyright, and the protection serves for many years – usually over 70 years or even a lifetime (Johnson 6). The protection does not involve intellectual expressions like ideas and theories. It mostly handles matters that are captured in a fixed medium. In other words, copyright protects how an idea is expressed, and not the idea itself. Additionally, unlike trademarks, copyright does not require registration. It immediately comes to play.
In the case of patents, inventors enjoy the right to explore the marketplace with their products. The law also allows them to profit by transferring their rights to someone else. The elements under patents include improvements of technology, new machines, manufactured goods among others. The government grants the patents thus barring others from using an individual’s invention. Given the stiff competition that dominates today’s market, patents can put one at the edge of the competition, especially since it can last up to 20 years. However, certain conditions can disqualify an invention. To that end, the invention should not be obvious or morally offensive. It should also prove to be useful. Although this may appear as an easy task, it is a daunting process. It consumes time and money because it commands research to ensure that no other patents of similar nature exist. Even worse, the invention can be challenged legally without refunds (Colston and Jonathan 13). Hence, it can be a high-risk undertaking. There is no guarantee for merit or commercial value.
Expounding on Infringement
Infringement is simply the violation of intellectual property law. As a bold step to protect one’s work against infringement, the owner should put the world on notice about their rights. This is to primarily caution those who may violate the law unintentionally and take legal action against those who chooses to ignore. The most common way of ensuring visibility and creating notice is by putting marks of trademarks and patents on their products. The marks can also be accompanied by the date on which the protection was assigned. Since patents can consume time, certain measures are put in place to deter others from copying the work. Commonly, the invention is marked with “patent pending” in such cases (Merges 18). As stated earlier, an event of infringement may necessitate the need for suing the offender. However, it is important to consult an attorney before taking a legal action to assert that the litigation correlate with their best interests. The fact is that the prosecution of infringement cases is very expensive. Therefore, upon probing, the court may deem the case non-extensive and invalid (Merges 19). This may come to the surprise of the owner who could have strongly believed in the validity of his/her rights.
On the bright side, if the litigation is successful, various resolutions can be reached. An injunction stopping the infringer from carrying on what is then considered as a breach can be ordered. This may be supplemented with payments to the owner to cater for the damages incurred. Alternatively, the owner and infringer can come to a consensus. The agreement usually allows the infringer to continue using the intellectual property for a fee, which is paid to the owner. It can include the acknowledgment of the owner’s work. Therefore, the intellectual property law has proven to be effective and lucrative. Many individuals and companies have made chunks of money following successful lawsuits. On the other end, the law has also seen profitable firms and rich individuals become bankrupt. It explains why the world is experiencing a surge in companies specializing in intellectual property law. Nevertheless, the need for an attorney in this process cannot be over-emphasized. Lawyers play a crucial role in preserving integrity within the bounds of intellectual property law.
Loads of research works have endeared to examine the ethical issues surrounding this area. The issues are closely related to the Internet. While the society is concretely benefiting from the digital evolution, technology is also putting ethical issues in jeopardy. The presence of Internet is increasing difficulties in the protection of intellectual property (Andorno, Nils and Christian 34). The hard truth is that today people deliberately breach the law for personal interests, particularly financial gains. The Internet offers a wide array of information which is accessed with ease. Hence, people can copy, manipulate and distribute other people works. The case is especially so given the various tools that can facilitate manipulation. Unfortunately, technological advancement is stimulating a culture in which reality acquires different interpretations. While other see an opportunity to foster societal growth and development, some leverage these avenues and undertake immoral acts.
Some theorists argue that the existence of intellectual property law is evidence that certain persons are expected to violate the rights of others (Andorno, Nils and Christian 28). Hence, the intellectual property law is influencing ethics in relation to the social, global, political and economic aspects. The mass production and consumption of information is at the center of the ethical matters. The world has shifted from the traditional technology intellectual property which was confined to media such as T.V and published books (Andorno, Nils and Christian 30). Today, information structure, computer networks, and World Wide Web have changed the conceptualization of media. Clearly, the future of computer ethics requires heightened measures in safeguarding creativity and innovation. The freedom of information should be followed with greater transparency revolving around intellectual property law. With the increasingly technological growth, there will be the need to modify the rules and regulations around intellectual property in order to accommodate the revolution.
Apparently, the protection of intellectual property promotes innovation. Without the laws, the intellectual assets of individuals and business will be compromised thus derailing the full benefits of creativity and innovation. There will be little/no incentives for people to concentrate on research and development. Therefore, it is pertinent for artists and inventors to be adequately compensated because their growth positively impacts the entire society.