Question

Intellectual property (IP) is one of the most important areas of study in international business. Your...

Intellectual property (IP) is one of the most important areas of study in international business. Your textbook discusses TRIPS and attempts to harmonize IP laws across countries. Nevertheless IP laws continue to be less than harmonized across countries. Please answer the following questions analytically. Why do we have IP laws in the first place, especially separate from property laws that already exist? Given the existence of these laws, what explains why for instance in the US we have a 17 year time period for patents, or 70 years after life for copyright, etc? In other words, where do these numbers come from? Finally, why do different countries differ in their IP laws? For example, most countries have different time periods for patents and copyrights, as well as different systems (first-to-file versus first-to-invent) for determining IP ownership. While answering the last part of this question, please consider cultural, economic, social, political, religious and other factors that might explain IP differences. (4 points)

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Answer #1

Intellectual property laws deal with securing and enforcing legal rights to artistic works, designs, inventions which may be achieved through patents which provide the owners to put the product in the marketplace or to transfer the right of use to another for an accepted benefit. The legal agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual propertty rights(TRIPS) signed between all member nations of the World Trade Organisation attempts to create level ground on an international level for prevention of misuse and abuse of intellectual property. This is very essential due to the vast development in communications technology providing access to ideas and creations in one corner of the world to the all and sundry across the globe. In the absence of a uniform law applicable across borders theft of intellectual property would become very tough to control. IP laws need to differ from other property laws as the the form of the asset itself makes it prone to theft and misuse by others without visible effects. For example let us consider true property in the form of a house, it is impossible for anyone to carry away the said house, an illegal takeover of the property would also be very visible and action can be initiated very easily as the asset is very tangible, as also the crime.

The basic concept behind issuing patents or copyrights was to encourage inventors to bring their inventions out into the open and promote development and competition. Without the protection of patents many inventors would not have brought their ideas or designs out into the open for fear of them being copied with all benefits of their invention being lost. An inventor would have to have sufficient funds to create and bring his invention out in the open and benefit from it before it would be copied. The patent law prevents the benefit of invention from being taken away by others through copying. The time period is limited so as to keep alive the concept of encouraging invention and advancement of technology. A particular time frame is sufficient for an inventor to cash in on his invention and to encourage improvements and innovation on every invention it needs to be open to later generations with upgraded skills.Copyright laws has gradually been increased to 70 years in the US as copyright is essentially for artistic creations and each work of art is a unique one time creation the short term benefits of which may be less than adequate. Hence, to encourage artistic talent and creativity , it is mandatory to protect their interests over a longer time period. Also this is not an area where a nation can benefit from improvement on a piece of art so all benefits should continue to flow to the creator.

Countries frame their IP laws on the basis of the prevalent economic and cultural climate as well as goals of the country in question. For example a nation which depends on agriculture as a major contributor to GDP may not allow patenting of inventions which improve agricultural output or management so as to ensure all inventions do not become expensive and people do not have selfish intentions of gaining from these inventions personally and are forced to share the invention with all leading to maximum benefit for the nation. Cultural and social factors also impact Ip laws as certain nations consider art and artists as not saleable. Any work of art should be free for appreciation and use by all and putting a price on art is considered an insult to the artist as an artist's satisfaction is derived from appreciation of the creation and not in terms of financial benefits. Certain religions prevent and frown upon monetisation of creation of the mind, be it artistic or an invention. Faculties and talents given by God should be used to benefit one and all is the view of the religion. As it is very important for a nation to consider it's individual goals and the expectations of it's people before framing any laws it is difficult to find a single solution which may be acceptable to all.

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