Author’s : Annliya Anil, a student at the School of Excellence in Law, Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University.

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) are the legal protections granted to individuals or groups for their discoveries or works of art. These rights are essential for promoting innovation, creativity, and economic advancement because they provide incentives and rewards to inventors, artists, and creators. Intellectual property laws grant exclusive rights to creators, inventors, or proprietors to encourage innovation and creativity.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) complexities provide special difficulties in the ever-changing digital age. This paper explores the many facets of intellectual property rights, examining their use and applicability in the ever-changing digital landscape.

  1. Copyright and its challenges:

The intellectual property right known as copyright protects creative works of authorship, including music, plays, pantomimes, dance, computer software, sculpture, pictures, and graphics, sound recordings, and artistic and architectural creations. The 1957 Copyright Act safeguards copyright in India. Copyright is defined in Section 14 of the Act.  

Copyright infringement is the term for using protected works without the owners’ consent. It happens when someone else violates the owners of copyrights.

The greater likelihood of copyright infringement is one of the drawbacks of digitization. The following are a few ways that copyright protection is threatened by digitalization: 

  1. Piracy: The act of illegal production or dissemination of copyrighted material like computer programs, music, books,  etc, is called piracy. It results in the infringement of the rights of copyrighted work creators, performers, authors, and artists. Software piracy is the illegal copying, downloading, and selling of software. Software piracy encompasses several acts, such as the unapproved personal use of software, the unauthorized commercial use of software, software manufacturing, and the distribution of illicit software through computer technology.
  2. Linking: By sharing a link address on one website, a person can access another through linking. The rights of the owner of the linked webpage are frequently violated when a connection is made. It could raise the possibility that the two connected websites are identical, which would lessen the importance of the linked site. Ticketmaster Corporation v. Microsoft Corporation is a seminal lawsuit involving interlink and copyright violations. Microsoft was sued by Ticketmaster for infringement after the latter created an unlawful deep link to the former’s website. Since there was no direct copying, it was decided that deep linking did not infringe copyright laws.
  3. Social Media: Social media platforms have become extremely popular and are frequently used to communicate with people worldwide. Copyright violations have resulted from the widespread practice of disseminating content on social media, including images, videos, articles, and photographs. A common misperception is that anything posted on social media is public. Copyright infringement may result from the unapproved sharing of content. Content that is protected by a copyright cannot be shared, saved, or reposted. 

Understanding how old copyright rules were implemented and modified to meet the demands of developing digital technologies is crucial since it shaped later legal developments in the

area of online copyright infringement. This was demonstrated in the A&M Records v. Napster case.

This case set a precedent for holding peer-to-peer platforms accountable for facilitating copyright infringement by their users. The legal action taken against Napster for facilitating widespread copyright infringement marked a turning point in the music industry, leading to the rise of legal digital distribution models.

2. Fair use and Digital Content:

A fair use, broadly speaking, is any copying of intellectual property that is done for a specific, “transformative” purpose, including parodying, criticizing, or making comments on another person’s work. It is possible to make these uses without the copyright owner’s consent. Stated differently, fair use serves as a shield against accusations of copyright infringement. Your use would not be regarded as an infringement if it meets the criteria for fair use. The majority of fair use analysis can be classified into one of two categories: parody or commentary and critique.

In the digital age, the Google Books case is especially significant for copyright law. It supported the idea that transformative use is a potent defense that permits more people to access information while restricting the unrestricted use of intellectual materials. The growing environment of digital content transmission is shaped by the legal ramifications, which persist in influencing the meaning of fair use and transformative use in later copyright cases.

3. Cyber Securities and Trade Secrets:

Trade secrets and private information are very important to Indian companies. Because trade secrets and private information have a significant impact on a company’s competitiveness and valuation, businesses place a high priority on protecting them. However, it could be challenging to watch them legally given their clandestine nature. This exposes businesses to fraud from dishonest employees, cyberattacks from hackers, and rival company espionage.

Threats from cyber espionage involving trade secrets and private data are increasing at a startling rate. Even if stealing personal information is now punishable by law, organizations still need to be on the lookout for signs of misconduct and strengthen their defenses. 

A combination of national and international legislation, industry-specific rules, and agreements regulate trade secret protection. Foundational legal concepts are provided by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) globally and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) in the United States. The digital era has brought to light weaknesses in traditional frameworks, nevertheless, necessitating their adaptation to modern issues. Additionally, the global nature of digital information makes it more difficult to determine which rules apply and where. 

Organizations need to be proactive in responding to the changing digital landscape to guarantee the effectiveness of trade secret protection methods. Establishing a culture of knowledge and accountability around trade secrets requires strong corporate regulations and employee training initiatives. Protection can be greatly improved by having explicit policies on information handling, remote work procedures, and incident response strategies.

4. Patents in technology:

According to legal regulations and laws, a patent is regarded as an exclusive and absolute right granted to an individual or inventor upon the invention of something. These patent rights prevent third parties from making use of, marketing, or copying this specific invention—even outside the boundaries of the patent’s validity period. 

Among the many different kinds of patents, utility, design, and plant patents are the most basic and often used kinds.

  1. Utility Patents:

 This safeguards the patentable processes used in the creation and formulation of an invention, including the production and mixing of its constituent parts. A utility patent may also be awarded for modifications made to an already-existing product or enhancements made to it.

  1. Design Patents:

It is sometimes referred to as an object’s “surface ornamentation.” Its fundamental need is the ability to discern between a design and an item. The presentation of protection is shielded by this design patent. It was noted that the defendant in Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co. had obtained a design patent for a “pole lamp” that had seen considerable commercial success.  When the petitioner began charging less for similar goods, the defendant lost out. A case for patent infringement was brought against the petitioner. The respondent prohibited the sale of the bulbs and demanded payment from the petitioner.

  1. Plant Patents:

Plant patents protect newly discovered, distinctive, and emerging plants. Nevertheless, among other limitations, these plants have to be discovered in a cultivated state, cannot be produced from tubers, and must develop asexually, proving to the applicant that they have grown the plant.

Challenges of patent protection in the Digital Age;

  1. Nature of Technology: 

The sudden advancements in technology have been the biggest challenge in patent protection. Its frequent updates and rapidly evolving features make it difficult to obtain or even maintain patent protection.

  1. The enforcement difficulty:

In a globalized economy, it is often difficult to enforce these rights. Moreover, the rapid increase in e-commerce and e-businesses makes it difficult to enforce patent rights, especially in countries where IP laws are weak.

  1. Patent trolls:

These entities acquire patents for the sole purpose of licensing or litigating them instead of using them to create goods and services.

This makes it hard and expensive for patent holders to enforce their rights as these trolls might move on to filing lawsuits against them or demanding licensing fees, etc.

  1. Cost:

The cost of obtaining and maintaining patent protection is very expensive, especially in the digital space. This stops startups and small businesses who don’t have ample resources for all the processes.

5. Trademark Issues;

Trademarks are a type of intellectual property rights that safeguard corporate names, logos, and other distinguishing marks that are used to set one business’s goods and services apart from another. Trademark protection faces various obstacles in the internet environment.

The problem of domain name infringement is one of the primary obstacles. It can be challenging for businesses to prevent trademark infringement given the abundance of websites and domain names. Another major problem is cybersquatters, which register domain names that are similar to well-known brands to profit from the confusion that results.

The problem of brand emulsion is another obstacle. Social media and online marketplaces have made it simpler for people and businesses to create phony accounts or websites that mimic well-known brands. Confusion among customers and harm to the original brand’s reputation may result from this.

Conflicts between trademarks and domain names typically concern issues such as when a trademark infringer uses the goodwill of the trademark in the domain name to direct prospective customers of the trademark owner to a website unaffiliated with the trademark, or when the trademark is illegally registered as a domain name to extort money or prevent the owner from using the trademark. The domain names are swiftly sold by cybersquatters to unaffiliated parties, allowing for the passing off and dilution of well-known trademarks or trade names.

In general, trademark disputes in the digital sphere necessitate that businesses safeguard their intellectual property rights with alertness and initiative. Companies may help make sure that their names are not diluting or misapplied online by taking the required precautions to protect their trademarks.

6. Emerging Technologies in IPR:

As the digital world changes quickly in our day, emerging technologies are becoming a major source of innovation and advancement. The way we live and work is changing due to technologies like 3D printing, blockchain, and artificial intelligence (AI).

  1. 3D Printing:

Digital design can be translated into three-dimensional items using 3D Printing, or Additive Manufacturing as it is more commonly known. A new wave of decentralized manufacturing has been spurred by the development of 3-D printing, which enables people to produce physical objects based on digital blueprints. Before manufacturing or using a 3D-printed product, one must determine whether it is covered by exclusive rights or not. Patent holders’ rights must be carefully balanced with the promotion of innovation, most likely by creating the newest licensing arrangements and improved monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.

  1. Blockchain:

Blockchain is a type of technology for storing information that guards against misuse, hacking, and other hacking-related incidents. A distributed database system, or blockchain, enables transactions to be sent and duplicated amongst the machines in the network. The application of blockchain technology to intellectual property also brings up legal issues, including jurisdiction, privacy, and compliance with current rules and laws. The legal framework must change and become more clear as this technology continues to advance to fully utilize its potential and protect intellectual property rights.

  1. Artificial Intelligence:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the newest technologies with enormous promise for transformation. AI systems have the power to create creative music, art, and literature. They can also completely transform a wide range of sectors, including banking, healthcare, and entertainment.

The complexity of artificial intelligence has created a need to update the current intellectual property rules. The Patent Act of 1970 obstructs the inclusion of artificial intelligence (AI) in its scope, as section 2(p) defines the term patentee and section 2(t) defines the term “person interested.” As a result, the Act forbids anyone other than a human being from being a patentee. Furthermore, the Copyright Act, of 1957 limits the protection afforded to works made by machines because it defines “author” as “a human or a legal person,” as stated in section 2(d).

Furthermore, AI occasionally violates other intellectual property rights. For instance, ChatGPT offers findings; however, these results are based on internet data that is previously available and may or may not contain intellectual property. Since it is evident that the current IP regulations are ambiguous, there are concerns regarding the level of protection that should be given to AI works.

7. Abstract:

This article examines the complex world of intellectual property rights (IPR) in the digital era by examining the interactions between legal theories, case law, and current issues. It captures the complex fabric of digital IPR, highlighting the changing environment influenced by new technologies and the fine line that separates innovation from legal protections. It provides a view into the legal adventure.

8. Relevant Indian Case Laws:

  1. Shreya Singhal v. Union of India
  • Facts: The case started when two girls were arrested for their critical Facebook posts about the shutdown in Mumbai after a political leader died. The Information Technology Act’s Section 66A, which made it illegal to send abusive messages online, was applied.
  • Issue: The constitutional validity of Section 66A was challenged on the grounds of violating the right to freedom of speech and expression.
  • Judgment: Because Section 66A was excessively wide and ambiguous, opening the door to future abuse and restricting free speech, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional. The ruling underscored how critical it is to safeguard free speech online.
  1. Star India Pvt. Ltd. v. Leo Burnett (India) Pvt. Ltd.
  • Facts: The case involved a dispute over copyright infringement in the context of an advertisement created by Leo Burnett, which Star India claimed was similar to their original work.
  • Issues: The primary issue was whether there was a substantial similarity between the two advertisements, constituting copyright infringement.
  • Judgment: The court ruled in favor of Star India, holding that there was indeed a substantial similarity between the two advertisements, and Leo Burnett’s work infringed upon Star India’s copyright.
  1. Monsanto Technology LLC v. Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd.
  • Facts: The case revolved around the patenting of genetically modified cotton seeds by Monsanto, and the licensing agreements with Indian seed companies, including Nuziveedu Seeds.
  • Issues: The main issues included the validity of Monsanto’s patents, the enforcement of licensing agreements, and the determination of royalty payments.
  • Judgment: The Supreme Court upheld the validity of Monsanto’s patents but held that certain clauses in the licensing agreements were not enforceable. The court also clarified the terms of the royalty payments.

9. Conclusion:

The conclusion of this legal investigation makes it clear that flexible legal frameworks are necessary to reconcile digital age requirements with intellectual property rights. The difficulties and possible solutions we face as we go through this legal maze highlight the need for ongoing legal development in the area of digital intellectual property rights.

10. References:

  5. Global Patent Blogs | GPF

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *