The creations of the human mind, i.e. the human intellect, are the objects of ‘Intellectual Property’. With globalization and the world becoming a single market place, these intangible property rights have become increasingly valuable. Any attempts to infringe or pass-off such rights are to be severely discouraged and the owner is to be given full legal protection. In today’s world, when large investments are required to finance research and development in various fields, there would be little incentive to invest in development of new products, advertise or build a strong brand, or invent something new unless and until protection of intellectual property rights is available.
Intellectual Property Rights are of great importance for modern industry and commerce and in many cases, they have a very important effect on the economy and on the very existence of the business entity. These comprise the right to control the use of technology and creative material, including rights in artistic, musical and literary work, and the right to prevent others from misusing certain marks, symbols and drawings and in distinguishing one from the other.
IPR also provide means by which an owner or an innovator can protect his innovation etc. from being imitated and safeguard the fruits of his valuable labour and investment. Basically, an Intellectual Property Right gives a remedy to its owner against those persons who want to reap the fruits of his ideas or work. The value of Intellectual Property cannot be defined in monetary terms; it is an intangible asset of any corporate entity.
Designs are also an important component of intellectual property rights, which are worthy of protection. “Design” indicates any aspect of the features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to any article by any industrial process, whether external or internal of the whole or part of an article. A new or novel design can be registered as per the provisions of the Designs Act and such registration gives the proprietor a copyright in the design for five years, which can be renewed for two further terms of five years each.
Those who wish to purchase an article for use are influenced not only by the practical efficiency and utility of the article but also by its appearance. Many consumers look out for artistic merit and some are attracted to strange and bizarre eye-catching designs. Much thought, creativity, time and expense usually goes into devising new and innovative designs, which would increase the appeal of the product. Therefore, the object of the design registration is to see that others applying it to their goods do not deprive the originator of a profitable and innovative design of his reward.
The purpose of the Designs Act is to protect novel designs to be applied to, or governing the shape and configuration of a particular article to be manufactured and marketed commercially. It is a right to prevent the manufacture and sale of articles of a design not substantially different from a registered design. The emphasis, therefore, is upon the visual image conveyed by the manufactured article.
The purpose of the Act, therefore, is to preserve for the owner of the design the commercial value resulting from customers preferring the appearance of articles which have new and innovative designs reproduced upon articles on a mass scale, application being done by the industrial process or mechanical and chemical means.
The design rights may be infringed by unauthorized reproduction of the design for commercial purposes. A suitable action for infringement can be brought against the person infringing the particular design. Whether a passing off action would lie for an unregistered design is still a grey area.
There are two kinds of designs, which are protected under the Designs Act. The first is in the shape of configuration or three-dimensional article. In the second, any feature of an article which appeals to the eye, like a design on a carpet, any painting or a paint on cloth. There is in fact considerable overlapping sometimes between the Copyright law and the Designs law. The duration of rights is different. So far as Copyright is concerned, the copyright is protected for a period of 60 years; designs are protected for a maximum period of 15 years.