When something is new or innovative, inventors have the right to safeguard their inventions by excersinging thier intellectual property rights. These rights allow the inventor to monopolise and benefit from their inventions monetarily while seeking credit for the invention. IPRs are akin to tangible assets that may be purchased, sold or licensed while the owner of the IPR has the monopoly over the innovation for a specific period of time. They can be sought in various categories which include patents, copyrights, designs, trademarks and trade secrets. In case of intellectual property in cyberspace, IPRs are also applicable to data base rights and domain names on the internet.
Inventors register for patents which allow them to monopolize their inventions for a limited time. Typically, a patent can be filed when an invention is new and involves a level of creativity, not explored before. Unfortunately, IP on the web, including computer programs are currently not patentable. While innovators may patent new machine tools, non-technological inventions cannot be patented. For instance, software that helps to check grammar. Innovators of new machine tools can apply for patents and seek monetary benefits by entering licensing deals.
Copyrights can be sought for any original, creative material, irrespective of the form – whether it is music, literary or artistic works. Copyrights can be sought regardless of the medium as they typically cover the expression of the idea; not the idea. In case of intellectual property on web, with specific reference to software; any software held on a computer typically should be copied – whether it is done on the machine on which the software was created or from a specific storage medium. However, in order to copy the software, the consent of the individual or company holding its copyright is necessary. Essentially, this consent is provided in the form of a license agreement between the owner of the copyright and the software user. However, if someone obtains a pirated version of the software, then copyrights are breached when the software is transferred illegally.
Trademarks are simply defined as images or signs used to identify a brand or certain products of a company. A trademark helps distinguish one company from another and essentially functions as a badge, identifying the brand. Anyone wishing to register a trademark must ensure that it is distinct. You may also apply for trademark protections in the web space but this protection is applicable only to the trade mark and not the goods and/or services provided under the trademark.
Design rights may or may not be registered. Even if a design right is unregistered, prohibitions are automatically applicable on copying or reproducing the design of a given product. However, reproductions cannot really be stopped, especially if they are not exact. Inventors may register their designs i.e. its appearance at the patent office and avail the monopoly that legally prohibits others from copying the designs. With reference to intellectual property in websites, designs fundamentally refer to the physical characteristics of a given product, thus ruling out application to software per se. Instead it applies to a particular device consisting of software.
With regards to the contents and the arrangements of database, database rights are almost identical to copyrights. Database, therefore is generally considered as a literary work and in case extracts are to be made from the data base, then copyright rules would be applicable. In case one wishes to use a database commercially, they need to seek the approval of the individual owning the copyrights.
With more brands offering online services, trademarks are being registered more often than ever in the form of internet domain names. Miscreants often register domain names by paying a small price and resort to ‘cybersquatting’ in an attempt to extort huge sums of money from already exiting and legitimate businesses. In order to combat this ‘cybersquatting’ the Universal Domain Name Dispute Resolution Procedure was introduced by UK in 2000. This procedure allows a trademark owner to file a complaint against domain names, especially those that are confusingly similar. The procedure allows the trademark owner to essentially prove that a domain name owner has no legal rights or interests in the trademark, showing that the domain name is registered in bad faith to extort money.
Final word: As is apparent, intellectual property in cyberspace applies just as easily as it does to traditional forms of IP applications. That said; there need to be much more concrete rules in place, allowing website and IP owners on the internet and cyberspace to protect their IPs, especially when it comes to protecting software or taking stricter steps against ‘cybersquatting’.