Why Intellectual Property needs to be protected
It is argued in some circles that if intellectual property is protected in the right way, it can act as a catalyst for economic, social and cultural development, and that protecting intellectual property spurs creativity and facilitates the advancement of technology; while in other circles it is believed that protecting intellectual property stymies creativity and technological advancement.
One way industry benefits from intellectual property protection is by means of the patent system. This system allows a company, in industry, to patent their invention(s), and if the invention is good, its application results in increased sales for that company, hence increased profit for that company, and better economic conditions for the society where that company exists.
Individuals, and the society as a whole, benefit from having intellectual property protected by means of the copyright system. Since only the creators of literary and artistic works can decide how and where their works are distributed and re-used, they benefit financially, and the society is culturally enhanced by their creations.
If intellectual property is too rigidly protected, it can stymie development in the society where it exists. This is because with strict patenting laws even minor development on existing patented work will be prohibited, preventing the product from ever being improved. Even with lax intellectual property laws, individuals and companies can not casually enhance an existing product.
Industrial Property (Patents)
The sole purpose of a business is to make profit, and the patent system provides incentive, not only to businesses, but also to individuals, for them to create, innovate and invent. Industry, and to a lesser extent individuals, benefit financially from patenting their inventions because it prevents others in the same industry from reverse engineering their products and developing similar products using similar technology, and putting them on the market to compete with their products.
Many companies spend millions of dollars on research and development (R & D) trying to make their products better, and often succeed in doing so using creative and ingenious methods. The patent system allows such companies to benefit financially from the ingenuity and creativity of their employees, and to recover the money they spend on R & D.
Like the patent system, copyright provides the mechanism which allows the creators of literary and artistic work to benefit financially from their creativity, by having them decide how and where their works are copied and distributed. This often involves the creators of such work signing contracts with publishers, recording studios, and music companies.
Society also benefits because it prevents members in a society from expressing their ideas in exactly the same way. It thus creates a society with diverse literary and artistic expression, even though these expressions might be different expressions of the same idea.
Protecting Intellectual Property
If there was no benefit to be derived from protecting intellectual property, or if the benefits did not heavily outweigh the drawbacks, there would not have been a push for, and ascension to, international agreements relating to intellectual property rights.
The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which is administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has 147 member states; (WTO, n.d.) the Berne Convention for the protection of Literary and Artistic Work, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), has 180 member states, and is one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations system of organizations; (WIPO, n.d.) and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, which is also administered by the WIPO, are all testimony to the fact that intellectual property is beneficial to human kind.
However, nations have to be careful in implementing intellectual property rights, because if IPR systems are too rigid they can hinder, rather than promote economic, social and cultural development. Members of the society, and industries in the society, will be afraid to express ideas similar to those already expressed, and to enhance already patented products. On the other hand, if laws are lax there will be little motivation in the society to create, innovate, and express ideas literarily and artistically.
A careful balance must be struck in developing and implementing IPR policies and systems, and such policies and systems must depend on the particular situation of the country for which they are to be implemented, and also incorporate international ideals on IPR.