Libertatem Magazine

Intellectual Property Rights in India

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Intellectual property rights play a key role in almost all the sectors as it includes patents, copyright, industrial design rights, trademarks, plant variety rights, trade dress, and geographical indications. IPRs are exclusive rights and therefore there is always a challenge to keep a balance between the interests of innovators and the interests of the society at large.

What Are Intellectual Property Rights?

According to WTO (World Trade Organization), intellectual property rights are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator the exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period.

According to Article 2 of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) – Central Organisation for the protection of Intellectual Property Laws and the expert organization of the UN, “Intellectual Property shall include the rights relating to literary, artistic and scientific works, inventions in all fields of human endeavour, scientific discoveries, industrial designs, trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations, protection against unfair competition, and all the other rights resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or scientific fields.”

The intellectual property right is a legal right that protects a person’s literary works, inventions, artistic works and designs etc. for a specific period. Thus the owners have certain rights by which they can enjoy their property without any disturbances such as piracy, false accusation of invention etc. Intellectual property rights also promote publication, manufacturing and production.

IPR Status In India


India is a signatory to the Berne Convention on copyright. . However, it may be a good idea to register your copyright as doing so may help to prove ownership if there are criminal proceedings against infringers. In most cases though, registration is not necessary to maintain a copyright infringement claim in India. Registration is made, in person or via a representative, with the Copyright Office. Since 2016, copyright policy was moved to India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry. All IPRs are now administered by the Department for Industrial Property and Promotion (DIPP).

In the case of Holy Faith International (P) Ltd. v. Shiv K. Kumar, the court observed that the primary function of copyright law is to protect the fruits of man’s work, labour, skill or test from being taken away by other people.

In Re. Three Idiots (2009), it was concluded that unless there is substantial similarity between the book and the movie it cannot be said to be an infringement of copyright. However, one is bound to put in an acknowledgement stating the idea was derived from the book in question and such mode of acknowledgement can be determined as per the agreed terms between the parties. 


A trademark is defined under Section 2 (ZB) of the Trademarks Act, 1999 as a mark that is capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one person from that of the others and may include the shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours. As per Section 2, (m) of the Trademarks Act, 1999 mark includes a device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, word, letter, numeral, shape of goods, packaging or combination of colours or any combination thereof.

In Yahoo!, Inc. v. Akash Arora & Anr, the court held that a domain name serves the same function as a trademark and is entitled to equal protection.

In Horlicks Ltd. & Anr. v. Heinz India Pvt. Ltd, the court reiterated that the object of Section 28 and 29 of the Trademark Act is to educate people and enable them to make an informed choice as well as to avoid any practices detrimental to the Trademark Act and amounts to infringement.


India’s Patents Act of 1970, 2003 Patent Rules and the 2016 Patent Amendment Rules set out the law concerning patents.

The regulatory authority for patents is the Patent Registrar under the office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks, which is part of India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Patents are valid for 20 years from the date of applying, subject to an annual renewal fee. India’s patent law operates differently as it has a ‘first to file principle – that is, if two people apply for a patent on an identical invention then the first one to apply for application will be granted with a patent.

In Monsanto Technology LLC and ors. v. Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd. and ors, The patented invention in the case related to a DNA sequence called NAS, which when inserted into a plant cell provides insect tolerance to the plant. On appeal from the interim injunction of the Single Judge in an infringement suit, the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court decided the counterclaim of the defendant for revocation summarily. Taking up the case on special leave, the Supreme Court held that a decision on revocation of a patent requires a trial, and cannot be decided in a summary manner. It stated that the Division Bench should have confined its decision to the injunctive relief in question, and remanded the case back to the Single Judge for a full trial under the law.


The laws governing designs are the Designs Act 2000 and the Designs Rules 2001. In India, designs are valid for a maximum of ten years and renewable for a further five years. Section 2(d) of the Designs Act, 2000 defines ‘Design’ – it means features of shape, configuration, pattern, ornament or composition of lines or colours applied to any article. The application of shape, configuration etc. to an article should be by an industrial process or means. In the finished article, it should appeal to and be judged solely by the eye. It does not include any trademark or property mark or any artistic work as defined under the Copyright Act, 1957.

In Gopal Glass Works Ltd v. Controller of Patents and Designs, it was observed that to destroy the novelty of design registration, prior disclosure whether by publication or by use or by any other way, must be of the pattern, shape and/or configuration applied to the same article. It was further observed that when the novelty of an article is tested against the prior published document, the main factor which is required to be judged is the visual effect and appeal of the picture illustration. Further, the Court held that such visual effect and appeal of the pattern and/or configuration must be considered in respect of the article to which it is applied. 

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