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What are Intellectual property rights (IPRs) and how do they grant protection to the owner of an IPR?

What are Intellectual property rights (IPRs) and how do they grant protection to the owner of an IPR?

Intellectual property rights or IPRs are rights given to people over the creations of their minds. These rights are given by society through the State as an incentive to produce and disseminate ideas and expressions that will benefit society as a whole.

Unlike Fundamental Rights of citizens which are guaranteed by the Constitution of a country, IPRs are statutory rights enacted by the lawmaking authority in a country. Conventionally, many forms of IPRs are recognised. They are traditionally classified into two main categories-

• Copyright and related rights: i.e., rights granted to authors of literary and artistic works, and the rights of performers, producers of phonograms and broadcasting organizations. The main purpose of protection of copyright and related rights is to encourage and reward creative work. The distinguishing feature of this category of rights is that they protect only the tangible expression of an idea and not the idea itself. Further, these rights generally come into existence the moment a work is created and need not be registered with any central authority.

• Industrial property: This category includes:

(1) the protection of distinctive signs such as trademarks and geographical indications, and

(2) industrial property protected primarily to stimulate innovation, design and the creation of technology which are protected through laws on protection of inventions (patents), industrial designs and trade secrets. IPRs grant protection to the owner as they give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her intellectual creations generally for a limited period of time.

However, in the case of certain categories of IPRs, the rights e.g. trade secrets and geographical indications can exist indefinitely so long as the right holder takes steps to protect his right. In the case of certain other time limited IPRs, it is possible to renew the rights periodically either for an indefinitely long period as in the case of trademarks or for a pre-specified maximum limit as in the case of industrial designs.

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