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This essay will consider the topic of how adequately intellectual property rights protect the position of the creator, with whom those rights may reside.

The essay will deal with four specific areas of this topic –

(i) intellectual property patents;

(ii) copyright;

(iii) trade marks and

(iv) industrial design law.

The essay will deal with the nature of intellectual property rights, their scope and efficacy.

Intellectual property rights, and their various forms

These rights accrue where something is created, such as where a scientist invents a machine that performs a certain function. Intellectual rights are legal rights, and they give the creator a right to ensure that a creation is not reproduced, without the authorisation of the creator. The intellectual property right therefore protects the creation, since the creation can, and usually is a saleable commodity. By extension the rights of the creator are also protected, because the creator may enforce these legal rights against any third party who attempts to reproduce their creation without authorisation. Thus a creation attracts a range of legal protections that a creator can enforce, thereby protecting the profitability of the creation. Intellectual property rights can be transferred, as the right of protection is tied to the creation, more than it is to the creator, and this frequently occurs, for example in relation to the intellectual property rights in drugs that are owned originally by a given scientist, but transferred to the company that may employ the scientist, and fund their research.

Intellectual property rights are protected depending on the nature of the item that is to be protected, and these protections can take specific forms such copyrights, or patents depending on the actual nature, properties and characteristics of what is to be protected.

A patent offers protection regarding the intellectual property rights in a new invention. Patent protection is more directed at the process through which a creation is created . It focuses on the process itself, thereby protecting how a creation is created. There are certain criteria that apply to distinguish a patent as opposed to another form of intellectual property protection. These are: the invention must be new, and contain an innovative step that is original. There must be scope for the creation to be used within industry. In order to be patentable, the creation must not be a scientific, or mathematical discovery, theory or method, a literary work or some form of performance, a way of presenting information or of doing business or performing, a variety of animal or plant, a diagnostic technique or medical treatment. Furthermore a patent must not offend public policy or morality.

A patent, therefore is where intellectual property rights accrue within a certain set of parameters, such as where a timescale applies. An example of this is the intellectual property rights that accrue to drugs manufacturers – these are protected by patents, and international law provides that these last for a given length of time, which in turn enables third parties to reproduce the drug after the patent has expired. A patent must almost always be applied for, with the authorisation of the creator.

Copyright protects particular types of works. Usually this is works that have an author, such as a book, article of some type of performance, such as a musical or other artistic performance. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 gives automatic protection to the work of such a creator. In the UK the main source of legislation that protects the position of the creator is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

The rights of creators under the various types of intellectual property rights

In regards to copyright, there is no need to apply for a “patent” , although it must be borne in mind that particular exemptions apply. The operation of these exemptions offer some level of accessibility to third parties, who can reproduce the work for a particular, defined purpose without infringing the legal copyright of the creator.

An example is where a book, protected by copyright is borrowed from the library by a student, and the student photocopies the contents of it for study purposes. The student is authorised under statute to do this, as long as the photocopy is used for this particular purpose. Likewise a tutor may use a book in the same manner. This exception is known as the “fair-dealing” exception.

The protections available to copyright holders are premised on defaulted assumptions that operate automatically. This gives the creator a specific and in many senses, quite a clearcut level of protection where their copyright may have been infringed. The exemptions, while they appear to quite wide-ranging are nevertheless limited to very specific types of non-commercial situations, and due to this, it would be difficult for the exemptions to be abused in order for the intellectual property rights of the copyright holder to be infringed.

The copyright, as far as this protects the position of the creator is therefore quite an effective construction. It may be seen as cost-effective as a copyright holder does not have to incur any expense prior to any potential infringement of their copyright. The rights of the copyright holder may therefore be seen as quite effectively protected under the law of England and Wales.

The situation of the intellectual patent holder is different, for a number of reasons, and the case for how well the creator is protected under the system is not quite as clearcut.

By contrast with the situation in respect of copyright holders, the intellectual property patent is a source of protection that must be applied for, and granted. Patent rules thereby impose an obligation on the creator to acquire protection, and to prove that the creation in question is worthy of such protection. In this sense the copyright protection accrues on a defaulted basis, whereas the patent is a different mechanism that must be activated, before it creates an enforceable right of intellectual property right protection. However, the automatic nature of the protection that is created by a copyright has the drawback that rights are qualified by statutory rules, and this is something that the intellectual property patent is not as susceptible to.

The situation of the patent-holder creator is therefore affected by complex factors including the nature, and means through which intellectual property rights may be invoked and the manner is which they are created in the first place.

The most starkly relevant point is the level of obligation placed upon the would-be patent holder who is the creator of an invention. This burden imposes a high level of expense on the part of the creator, and due to the availability of the mechanism, the recourse that may be affected by creators that fail to use it are quite limited. Furthermore, the creation of a patent does not offer a full level of protection to the patent holder, since any allegations that the patent has been infringed are subject to the burden of proof in legal proceedings and proving an infringement is yet another potential complex and expensive engagement with legal processes.

On the other hand however, the obligation placed upon the patent holder requires the creator (or the third party to whom a creator may have passed their intellectual property rights to) to define their creation, and explain its purpose clearly, within documents that are recorded and held by third parties. This process may arguably safeguard the position of the patent holder since the prior description may be helpful in terms of proving any future potential infringements.

The complex nature of the patent can also confer rights on the creator of a patent, where that creator has assigned the rights of the creation patented, to a third party such as an employer. This is a situation that is commonly experienced, where a pharmaceutical company, for example hires researchers to research the creation of new drugs. This was the situation in the case of James Duncan Kelly and Kwok Wai Chiu v GE Healthcare Ltd [2009] EWHC 181, (PAT) . The background to the case was that the claimants were employed by GE Healthcare (the respondents) and during the course of their research, commissioned by their employer they developed an extremely profitable creation, which their employer benefitted from immensely. The case appears to contradict the statutory provisions that govern patents commissioned by employers through research in these circumstances (section 39 of the Patents Act 1977), since these provisions automatically vest the rights arising from creations made in the course of employment into the possession of the employer. The judicial analysis in James Duncan Kelly and Kwok Wai Chiu v GE Healthcare Ltd [2009] EWHC 181, (PAT) identified the rights of the employees as limited, and the “profit” they made from the venture was actually referred to as “compensation” in the judgement, but the judgement nevertheless does appear to considerably strengthen the position of the creator, where the creator is employed and assigns the rights associated with their creation to a third party (in this case, the employer) .

It may be argued therefore, that while there are considerable obligations placed upon a creator, in terms of obtaining patent protection, the developed body of patent law, regulation and rules appears to have quite an equitable approach to the enforcement of a patent, and this may not necessarily be visible within the other areas of intellectual property regulation.

Trademarks, too are a separate category of intellectual property rights that have specific characteristics. A trademark is a mark that indicates or signifies information. It is usually used to indicate that particular items have a unique source, and trademarks are commonly used by businesses or individuals, so that their products or services may be distinguished readily among potential users of the trade-marked goods or services. Problems can arise with the use of these trade marks, for example a well known brand of boots – UGG boots for example are known for their unique style, durability and quality. Another manufacturer can reproduce the boot, but use a trademark that is slightly different although not easily distinguishable from the original UGG logo. Due to the, customers identifying with the UGG brand can confuse the two, and purchase the other UGG brand. This can be potentially damaging to the original UGG provider for two main reasons. Firstly, it can divert business from the original UGG providers due to the confusion about the brand, and secondly where another provider sells poor quality boots, this can damage the reputation of the original UGG provider, where there is confusion about the trademark, due to similarity with other trademarks. These difficulties have resulted in trademarks being given intellectual property status, and legal protection. Again however, the protections offered in connection with trademarks are different from the other forms of intellectual property rights protections that have previously been discussed in the essay.

Trademarks are protected where they are used in a market, or where they are registered. In this sense there is a dual form of legal protection available in contrast with the law of copyright, which is automatic and the patent, which requires registration. In this sense the trademark may be seen as having benefits associated with copyrighted material, as well as patented material. This being said however, the rights that may be enforced by the owner of a trademark that is not registered, are far more limited than the rights that may be enforced where the trademark is registered. Furthermore, there are additional costs burdens on complainants wishing to enforce intellectual property rights in connection with an unregistered trademark.

Perhaps the main advantage of the particular operation of the trademark intellectual property right is the retrospective nature of the operation of the intellectual property right, which sets the trademark apart from the patent in many respects.

The owner of a trademark must also grapple with the changing socio-political and socio-economic developments such as the increased use of global markets to conduct trade. The internet, likewise and the range of associated technological developments that have emerged over recent years, have also changed the nature of protections available to the owners of trademarks.

In response to this the Madrid and CTM systems of trademark registration have emerged.

The Madrid system is an international system for the registration of trademarks, which enables a trademark to be registered across multiple jurisdictions. Likewise, the Community Trade Mark system is a trademark system that operates on the basis of EU policy, law and agreements. It enables trademarks to be registered across multiple jurisdictions. However, both of these systems have a single drawback – they are not fully international, and thus the owner of a registered trademark may be susceptible to infringements of their trademark intellectual property rights, where the agreements are not effective, for whatever reason. The Madrid system has proven to be the most successful, as problems have been identified with the dual approach to the protection of trademarks, under the Community Trade Mark system, given the fact that most EU jurisdictions have national schemes for the protection of trademarks, that operate in conjunction with the EU-wide one. The Madrid system however, has a more central focus and it enables the owner of a trademark to file a single application for trademark protection, and use it to obtain protection in the other jurisdictions that are subscribed to the intellectual property rights protection system. That person attempting registration does not have to apply in the other jurisdiction also, and this means that the Madrid system is widely regarded as being more cost-effective.

The situation of the creator in terms of industrial design law is essentially one that is highly specific and individual, setting it apart from the other areas of intellectual property concerns. The creator of an industrial design can acquire intellectual property rights to that design whether the design is registered or not. This sets it apart from the position of the patent. However, the structure of the design right may be seen as flawed however, given the length of time that an intellectual property right can last (usually 15 years, and 25 in some cases). The time limits that apply to patents may be seen as more justifiable, give that on many occasions the removal of the patent paves the way for cheaper drugs manufacture in developing countries.

This essay has considered four separate areas of intellectual property law –copyright, trademarks, patents and industrial design law. The characteristics of each has been evaluated and considered. Essentially each intellectual property protection provision is different with its own approach to the protection of specific types of intellectual property rights.

It has been argued that the operation of the protection and how it may be created is critical to the value of the protection offered to the creator. It has been argued that the position of the creator is arguably protected better in a situation where some form of retrospective remedy, or prior protection is given to the creator. Nevertheless, the regulation of patents, notwithstanding that it does not have this constitution, may be seen as progressive given the equitable approach to the assignment of rights from creators that are employees, to their employers that was demonstrated in the case of James Duncan Kelly and Kwok Wai Chiu v GE Healthcare Ltd [2009] EWHC 181, (PAT) .

The essay has also addressed how the changing socio-political and socio-economic climate has affected the situation of the creator in terms of intellectual property protection. It has been argued that these changes have impacted the world of intellectual property protection by making it more complex, and more onerous on particular firms and businesses in terms of operating their businesses.

It must be acknowledged however, that the framework for the operation of intellectual property protection is regulatory, and due to this it is quite impossible to have a perfect system. There will always be complexities and difficulties that arise from the very process of regulation. In the case of intellectual property protection it may be argued that the different legislation provisions that specifically target each area of intellectual property protection are unique and tailored to the particularities of their remits. Given this complex fabric, it is difficult to compare and contrast the systems, and identify one that is more flawed, or more advantageous to the situation of the creator. The writer has therefore attempted to highlight how each system may advantage and disadvantage the situation of the creator.

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