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The history of Intellectual Property - Essay Example

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The idea that discoveries and inventions are the property of the author probably goes back to the 18th century. Evidence shows that 1791 French law stated something to this effect. However, the term 'intellectual property' was not used before 1845 when it was used in a Massachusetts Circuit Court ruling in a patent case…
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The idea that discoveries and inventions are the property of the probably goes back to the 18th century. Evidence shows that 1791 French law stated something to this effect. However, the term 'intellectual property' was not used before 1845 when it was used in a Massachusetts Circuit Court ruling in a patent case. The term entered common usage only with the forming of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations Organization, in 1967. Earlier, several conventions on intellectual property rights had been held, but the forming of the WIPO was the most important development with regard to intellectual property till the middle of the 20th century.
The WIPO defined 'intellectual property' as "creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce." Intellectual property "is divided into two categories: industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs." (WIPO, 1967) In simple words, intellectual property maybe called a generic term for a set of legal instruments that specify the exclusive rights granted to creators of new innovations. There are two categories of intellectual property rights: the first, patents, copyright, industrial designs, plant breeders' rights and layout designs for integrated circuits which grant exclusive rights to new innovations and original works of authorship for a limited period. These "provide an incentive for innovative businesses, authors and artists to commit resources to the creation of new consumer products, technologies, software packages, books, musical recordings, and so on- without the fear of intellectual theft once the results of these innovative and creative activities have been disclosed to the public." ( Primo Braga and Fink, 2001). Second, trademarks and geographical indications protect the use of words, signs and symbols associated with a particular product or company. These "facilitate market transactions by assuring consumers that they are purchasing what they intended to purchase." ( Primo Braga and Fink, 2001). Trade secrets also belong to the family of intellectual property rights (IPRs), but they are different from the other types of intellectual property in that no exclusive right is granted to the holder of the trade secret, and only protect the secret holder from acquisition by others using dishonest means.
The second most important development as far as intellectual property is concerned happened between 1986 and 1994, during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations. [1] this Round led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which was different from GATT in that it dealt with trade in intellectual property while GATT had dealt only with trade in goods.
As part of the final act of the Uruguay Round, the trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) Agreement was signed at the ministerial conference in Marrakech in April 1994. TRIPS is one of the three multilateral agreements that form the basis of the WTO [2] and is binding on all members of the WTO- existing or future.
The provisions of the TRIPS Agreement became applicable to all member countries at the beginning of 1996. However, developing countries and economies in transition were allowed a 4-year transition period for compliance to TRIPS provisions. Developing countries were further entitled to a 5-year transitional period for product patents in fields of technology that were not protected at the date of application of the Agreement. However, for pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals, even developing countries had to accept applications for product patents immediately. The least developed countries (LDCs) were entitled to a 10-year transitional period to comply with the Agreement.
Starting from 1996 and up to February 2000, nineteen TRIPS related disputes were brought to the WTO dispute-settlement body (DSB). Interestingly, all the disputes had been raised by developed countries- in fact, by only three WTO members: the US, Canada, and the European community. ( Hoekman and Kostecki, 2000).Only four of the disputes involved a defendant from a developing country ( India- twice, Pakistan, Argentina).
A ministerial conference was to be held in Seattle in December 1999, to review the TRIPS Agreement and perhaps form the basis for a future round of negotiations on intellectual property rights. Basically, two issues were raised before this Conference.
First- the expiry of deadlines. The 4-year transition period that had been given to developing countries expired at the beginning of 2000, but many developing countries had not upgraded their IPR systems to the TRIPS level till then. Many such countries demanded that they needed more time, although no specific proposal to this effect was submitted to the Seattle conference. A second deadline that expired at the end of 1999 was the moratorium on non-violation disputes, and several developing countries and even Canada requested that the moratorium be extended. The draft ministerial declaration at Seattle contained a recommendation to extend the moratorium to the end of 2002, but this was never adopted.
Second- the revision of the text of the TRIPS Agreement. Interestingly, developed countries did not submit any proposal for modifications to the TRIPS Agreement- only developing countries proposed amendments- such as harmonizing the text of the Agreement with the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), establishing a multilateral framework within the TRIPS Agreement with regard to the use of genetic resources and indigenous knowledge.
Subsequently, in the ight years since, there have been many developments in the field of IPRs: several plurilateral agreements have been signed, conventions have been organized by the WIPO, etc. However, none of them have been particularly significant in the context of the international community.
1. GATT was established in 1947 in lieu of an International Trade Organization which failed to obtain intergovernmental agreement. The main function of GATT was to make international trade easier and freer by reducing barriers through negotiations. GATT remained the only multilateral organization governing international trade from 1948 until the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995.
2. The other two multilateral agreements are the Multilateral Trade Agreement (MTA) on trade in goods and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). All other WTO Agreements are plurilateral and binding only on the signatory countries.
Hoekmann, B. and Kostecki, M. The Political Economy of World Trading System. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Primo Braga, Carlos A. and Fink, Carsten. Trade-related intellectual property rights- From Marrakech to Seattle. In Gunter Deutsch, Klaus and Speyer, Bernhard ed. The World Trade Organization Millennium Round- Freer Trade in the 21st century. Pages 180-198. London, New York: Routledge, 2001.
"What is Intellectual Property". World Intellectual Property Organisation. Web. Accessed November 15, 2008. Read More
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