Man was born to be rich, or grow rich by use of his faculties, by the union of thought with nature. Property is an intellectual production.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, US poet, philosopher, essayist
At one time, what one man earned was passed on to others. That knowledge helped survival. But sometimes knowledge was sought to be hidden from rival parties. If there was only one source of water insufficient for everyone, then it made sense to keep its knowledge to one’s own group only. If one extends the analogy from group to individual level, and from such chance discoveries to more specific examples of human intellect, we arrive at the concept of intellectual property.
Intellectual property is a legal concept and right that allows the exclusive privilege of possession or transference of a concept, intellectual product, the expressed form of an idea, or some other intangible product of human intellection or creativity. They are usually territorial such that the registration or enforcement of Intellectual Property (IP) would require separate perusal in each jurisdiction. In some countries, some forms of IP can be automatic – you don’t need registration – however, registration has its obvious advantages in case of an IP dispute. In an earlier age there was no IP protection. In the Elizabethan Age of Shakespeare, plays were regularly pirated. The problem of piracy exists even today, and within a day of the latest movie release or Harry Potter novel release, it may be found on the market or the internet.
Intellectual property may take various forms such as copyright, patent, trademark, industrial design right, trade secret or license. The argument in favor of IP is that it allows protection to authors and creators, and hence inspired innovation, which would result in public good. Contenders deny this claim saying that IP confiscates common knowledge or restricts public good by offering a form of protectionism and profiteering. As a result, IP is a globally contentious issue and there is no consensus regarding its definition, reach, rationale between individuals, governments, and within organizations like WTO. The vast amount of money involved in IP infringements make IP regulation an important area, and such historical examples like Napster and other P2P sharing software, make a potent case against piracy.
In this section, we provide links to various relevant resources, from copyright information to IP law firms.