Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) - Meaning, Types, Importance, Objectives




Science and Technology

1 min read

Prelims: Current events of National & International importance.

Mains: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) are the legal privileges granted to the inventor or creator to safeguard their intellectual work (in the arts, sciences, literature, etc.) for a specific period of time. These legal rights grant the inventor or creator, or his assignee, the sole right to fully exploit their invention or creation for a specific amount of time. These Intellectual property rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grants the right to gain protection for one's material and moral interests as a result of the authorship of works of science, literature, or the arts.

The significant body that oversees the global protection of IPRs is the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). It oversees the first international treaties to acknowledge the significance of intellectual property, which were the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886).

Objectives of Intellectual Property Rights

The term "intellectual property" (IP) refers to any original work of the human mind, including those in the arts, sciences, literature, technology, or other fields. Intellectual property rights are granted by considering the following objectives:

  • Allowing people to profit financially or gain popularity from their inventions and creations
  • to promote an environment where creativity and innovation can thrive by striking a balance between the interests of innovators and the larger public interest
  • To protect traditional knowledge

Types of Intellectual Property Rights

Traditionally, the two main categories of intellectual property rights are copyright and rights associated with copyright and industrial property. Industrial property includes trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, and trade secrets.

Patent in Intellectual Property Rights

When an invention satisfies the requirements of general novelty, non-obviousness, and industrial or commercial application, a patent is granted.

  • Products as well as processes are eligible for patent protection.
  • A patent gives the owner the authority to decide whether or how others may use an invention.
  • In exchange for this privilege, the holder of the patent publishes technical details about the invention in the patent document for public consumption.


The legal term "copyright" is defined as the ownership rights of authors and artists over their creative works.

  • The works protected by copyright can include computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings, in addition to books, music, paintings, sculptures, and films.
  • Copyright protects the author's rights to literary and artistic works for at least 50 years after the owner's death.
  • The rights of performers (such as actors, singers, and musicians), phonogram producers, and broadcasting organisations are all safeguarded by copyright and related rights.


A trademark can be defined as a symbol that can be used to separate the products or services of one company from those of another company. 

  • Trademarks have existed since the earliest days when artisans would sign or "mark" their creations.

Industrial Designs

Industrial design represents the decorative or aesthetic component of an object. The designs can include two-dimensional elements like patterns, lines, or colours and three-dimensional elements like the shape or surface of an object.

Geographical Indications

Geographical indications and appellations of origin are labels applied to products that have a particular geographical origin and that have qualities, a reputation, or other characteristics that can primarily be linked to that location of origin.

  • The name of the location where the goods were made is most frequently included in a geographical indication.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are intellectual property rights on private information (about a product, like Pepsi) that can be licensed or sold.

  • It is considered an unfair practice and a breach of trade secret protection when others obtain, use, or disclose such secret information without authorization in a way that is inconsistent with honest commercial practices.

International Bodies/Conventions on Intellectual Property Rights

To safeguard intellectual property rights, the international community has come up with various conventions and established bodies, as listed below.

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)

The promotion of the global protection of intellectual property rights is the responsibility of the WIPO. It also supervises the following treaties and conventions.

  • Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883): In its broadest sense, this convention covers all forms of industrial property, including patents, trademarks, industrial designs, utility models, service marks, trade names, geographical indications, and the stifling of unfair competition.
    • It was the first significant action taken to assist creators in making sure that their intellectual property was protected in other nations.
    • The provision of national treatment was established by this convention.
  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886): It is a convention that governs copyright internationally. The Convention covers the rights of authors as well as the protection of works.
  • Budapest Treaty: On the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure.
  • The Marrakesh Treaty, which is overseen by WIPO, facilitates the creation and international transfer of books that have been specially adapted for those who are blind or have visual impairments.
    • It accomplishes this by defining a set of restrictions and exclusions from conventional copyright law.
  • Patent Cooperation Treaty (1970): It offers a standardised process for submitting patent applications to safeguard inventions in all of its signatory states. 
    • It focuses on making the world accessible, streamlining the process of meeting various formality requirements, delaying the significant costs related to international patent protection, and providing a solid basis for patenting decisions.

TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement, 1994

The TRIPS Agreement is one of the most significant agreements of the WTO. 

  • At a broad level, it covers
    • Copyright and related rights (the rights of performers, record companies, and broadcasting organisations);
    • trademarks, including service marks;
    • geographical indications, such as appellations of origin;
    • industrial designs;
    • patents, which protect novel plant varieties;
    • integrated circuit layout-designs; and undisclosed information, such as trade secrets and test data.
  • The agreement's three primary characteristics are:
    • Standards: The TRIPS Agreement specifies the minimum standards of protection that each member must offer with regard to each of the primary intellectual property domains that it covers.
      • The subject matter to be protected, the rights to be granted, the permissible changes from those rights, and the minimum length of protection are all defined as the essential components of protection.
    • Enforcement: Intellectual property rights enforcement on a domestic level is addressed by enforcement procedures and remedies. 
      • The agreement establishes a few broad guidelines that apply to every IPR enforcement process.
      • It also includes detailed provisions on criminal procedures, special requirements related to border measures, interim measures, and civil and administrative procedures and remedies.
    • Dispute settlement: According to the Agreement, differences amongst WTO Members regarding observance of the TRIPS obligations are resolved through the WTO's dispute resolution processes.
  • Furthermore, the agreement stipulates fundamental concepts like national and most-favored-nation treatment.

Intellectual Property Rights in India

Since the inception of intellectual property rights, India has been committed to their preservation in domestic as well as international frameworks.

  • KAPILA: A systematic, comprehensive effort called "KAPILA, Kalam Programme for IP Literacy and Awareness" addresses the current barriers in the innovation ecosystem, particularly in our HEIs.
    • This programme will raise appropriate awareness among students and faculty of higher education institutions about the value of filing IP, the processes involved, and the laws governing IP filing in India and worldwide.
  • International membership:
    • Being a member of the World Trade Organisation, India is committed to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS Agreement).
    • India is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

Legal Provisions

The legal provisions for various types of intellectual property rights are:

  • Indian Patents Act: The law that oversees patents in India is the Patents Act of 1970.
    • The Indian Patent Act is administered by the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks, or CGPDTM.
    • Its major amendment was in 2005.
  • Design Act of 2000: The act's protections support innovation and serve to safeguard both manufacturers' and consumers' interests.
  • Trademarks Act of 1999 and its amendment of 2010: It has unique clauses associated with trade mark registration internationally. Within eighteen months, an international application may be filed in India to extend protection to the specified nations.
  • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999: A law to improve the protection and registration of geographical indications associated with products.
    • Also, there are various guidelines related to patents, trademarks and geographical indications.

Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM)

CIPAM was established in order to advance the implementation of the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy 2016.

  • It operates under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) ensures targeted action on IPR-related issues and attends to the policy's seven stated objectives.
  • In addition to taking action to promote IPR awareness, commercialization, and enforcement, CIPAM helps to simplify and streamline IP processes.

National IPR Policy 2016

It unifies all IPRs on one platform. It establishes a formal system for implementation, oversight, and evaluation. Importantly, it also seeks to incorporate and modify best practices from around the world for the Indian context.

  • In addition, it gives communities more power to advance their traditional knowledge, regulate its uses, and profit from its commercial exploitation.

Advantages of Intellectual Property Rights

The main advantage of intellectual property rights (IPRs) is to encourage and protect the creation, distribution, and offering of new goods and services that are based on the development and use of inventions, trademarks, designs, creative works, and other intangible assets.

  • Economic growth: Giving statutory expression to the creators' economic rights and fostering fair trade, intellectual property rights can support economic growth by fostering economic development.
    • IPRs can generate income not only from direct marketing but also by licencing them to third parties.
  • Fostering of culture: Copyright allows authors, performers, producers, and other creators to receive an economic reward for their works that enrich cultural heritage, enhance cultural diversity, and benefit society as a whole. These creative industries include publishing, music, and film.
  • Technical information dissemination: Any member of the public, including researchers, can use patent information even when a company, university, or research institution does not intend to use its own patented inventions.
  • Impetus to fair competition: By allowing consumers to make informed decisions about various products and services, the protection of IPRs such as distinctive signs aims to encourage and ensure fair competition as well as to protect consumers.
  • Research and development: IPRs promote R and D activities due to the financial benefits indirectly provided to the creators. These R and D facilitate two things:
    • It facilitates the innovations and production of new technology, like a new formula of drugs against any life-threatening disease.
    • This new technology/formula, after the patent period, helps a large population (for example, through the development of generics). Thus, it serves the social purpose of IPRs.
  • "Open source" is dependent on IPR: In industries like software, open source mechanisms like General Public Licences (GPLs) are common.
    • With no contractual obligation to use a single vendor, its benefits include reduced startup costs, quicker project launches, quicker iterations, more adaptable software development processes, strong community-driven support, and simpler licence management.
    • It's important to note that a typical GPL actually depends on IPRs since it is generally a copyright licence that is only valid as long as certain requirements are met.
  • Collateral used to secure financing:  IPRs, which are intangible assets, frequently aid small and medium enterprises (including start-ups) in their efforts to persuade outside parties to provide them with financing (such as investing equity or granting loans). 
    • The financial industry, particularly knowledge-intensive SMEs, depends heavily on the valuation of intangible assets, such as patents.

Disadvantages of Intellectual Property Rights

Here are a few disadvantages to intellectual property rights:

  • Extra Charges for Creators: It might be a bit costly to obtain protection for the first time, especially if the product is complex and includes methods, designs, and processes.
  • Piracy: Sometimes it becomes difficult to stop someone from copying the inventory work, even after obtaining IP protection. It becomes disadvantageous for the original creator of the patent.
  • Decreasing Quality: As time goes on, the quality of intellectual property degrades along with the rights to it.
  • Worldwide Inequities: The laws governing intellectual property are sometimes different. Different IP laws in different nations can result in unequal access to innovations and technologies, which disproportionately affects and impedes the development of developing nations.
  • Costly nature of patented products: Due to high prices for patent registration, research and development, and evergreening of patents, the price of patented products like pharmaceuticals has skyrocketed. It harms the interests of the general public, as they rely on these drugs.

Issues regarding Intellectual Property Rights in India

With advantages and disadvantages regarding intellectual property in India, the issues that persist are,

  • Evergreening: The Indian Patent Act 1970 (as amended in 2005) prohibits the granting of patents for inventions involving new forms of known substances unless there are significant differences in the substance's properties regarding efficacy.
    • This indicates that the Indian Patent Act forbids the evergreening of patents. This has caused issues for the pharmaceutical companies.
  • Compulsory licensing: This is when the government authorises organisations to make, sell, import, or use a patented invention without the patent owner's consent. CL is covered by the Indian Patents Act.
    • For foreign investors who bring technology, compulsory licencing presents a challenge because they worry that CL will be abused to copy their products.

PYQs on Intellectual Property Rights

Question 1: How is the Government of India protecting traditional knowledge of medicine from patenting by pharmaceutical companies? (UPSC Mains 2019)

Question 2: With reference to the 'National Intellectual Property Rights Policy', consider the

following statements: (UPSC Prelims 2017)

  1. It reiterates India's commitment to the Doha Development Agenda and the TRIPS Agreement.
  2. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion of the nodal agency for regulating intellectual property rights in India.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: (c)

Question 3: India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), which has a database containing formatted information on more than 2 million medicinal formulations is proving a powerful weapon in the country’s fight against erroneous patents. Discuss the pros and cons of making this database publicly available under open-source licencing. (UPSC Mains 2015)

FAQs on Intellectual Property Rights

What is intellectual property?

The term "intellectual property" (IP) refers to any original work of the human mind, including those in the arts, sciences, literature, technology, or other fields.

What are intellectual property rights?

Intellectual property rights (IPR) are the legal privileges granted to the inventor or creator to safeguard their work for a specific period of time. These legal rights grant the inventor or creator, or his assignee, the sole right to fully exploit their invention or creation for a specific amount of time.

What are the advantages of intellectual property rights?

The advantages of intellectual property rights include facilitating indirect income, fostering culture, technical information dissemination, the impetus to fair competition, research and development, and the collateral used to secure financing.

What are the disadvantages of intellectual property rights?

The disadvantages of intellectual property rights include extra charges for patented material, piracy of IPR property, and decreasing quality of IPR property.

Why are Indian IPR policies criticised?

The Indian IPR policies are criticised for the obstacles to the evergreening of patents and compulsory licencing.

India is part of which international Bodies/Conventions on intellectual property rights?

Being a member of the World Trade Organisation, India is committed to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS Agreement). India is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.