The concept of intellectual property

The concept of intellectual property is not new as Renaissance northern Italy is thought to be the cradle of
the Intellectual Property system. A Venetian Law of 1474 made the first systematic attempt to protect
inventions by a form of patent, which granted an exclusive right to an individual for the first time. In the same
century, the invention of movable type and the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg around 1450,
contributed to the origin of the first copyright system in the world.
Towards the end of 19th century, new inventive ways of manufacture helped trigger large-scale
industrialization accompanied by rapid growth of cities, expansion of railway networks, the investment of
capital and a growing transoceanic trade. New ideals of industrialism, the emergence of stronger centralized
governments, and nationalism led many countries to establish their modern Intellectual Property laws. At this
point of time, the International Intellectual Property system also started to take shape with the setting up of
the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1883 and the Berne Convention for the
Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 1886. The premise underlying Intellectual Property throughout its
history has been that the recognition and rewards associated with ownership of inventions and creative
works stimulate further inventive and creative activity that, in turn, stimulates economic growth.
Over a period of time and particularly in contemporary corporate paradigm, ideas and knowledge have
become increasingly important parts of trade. Most of the value of high technology products and new
medicines lies in the amount of invention, innovation, research, design and testing involved. Films, music
recordings, books, computer software and on-line services are bought and sold because of the information
and creativity they contain, not usually because of the plastic, metal or paper used to make them. Many
products that used to be traded as low-technology goods or commodities now contain a higher proportion of
invention and design in their value, for example, brand-named clothing or new varieties of plants. Therefore,
creators are given the right to prevent others from using their inventions, designs or other creations. These
rights are known as intellectual property rights.
Lesson 1 Introduction 3
The Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (1967) gives the following list of the
subject matter protected by intellectual property rights:
• literary, artistic and scientific works;
• performances of performing artists, phonograms, and broadcasts;
• inventions in all fields of human endeavor;
• scientific discoveries;
• industrial designs;
• trademarks, service marks, and commercial names and designations;
• protection against unfair competition; and
• “all other rights resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields.”
With the establishment of the world trade Organization (WTO), the importance and role of the intellectual
property protection has been crystallized in the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Systems (TRIPS)
Agreement. It was negotiated at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade (GATT) treaty in 1994.
The TRIPS Agreement encompasses, in principle, all forms of intellectual property and aims at harmonizing
and strengthening standards of protection and providing for effective enforcement at both national and
international levels. It addresses applicability of general GATT principles as well as the provisions in
international agreements on IP (Part I). It establishes standards for availability, scope, use (Part II),
enforcement (Part III), acquisition and maintenance (Part IV) of Intellectual Property Rights. Furthermore, it
addresses related dispute prevention and settlement mechanisms (Part V). Formal provisions are addressed
in Part VI and VII of the Agreement, which cover transitional, and institutional arrangements, respectively.
The TRIPS Agreement, which came into effect on 1 January 1995, is to date the most comprehensive
multilateral agreement on intellectual property. The areas of intellectual property that it covers are:
(i) Copyright and related rights (i.e. the rights of performers, producers of sound recordings and
broadcasting organisations);
(ii) Trade marks including service marks;
(iii) Geographical indications including appellations of origin;
(iv) Industrial designs;
(v) Patents including protection of new varieties of plants;
(vi) The lay-out designs (topographies) of integrated circuits;
(vii) The undisclosed information including trade secrets and test data.

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