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By Kundan Madireddy, Project Manager, and Dr. Shashank Shah, Project Director

On May 4th, the Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) and Tata Trusts hosted the sixth webinar in its multi-part series on issues connected with Livelihood Creation in India. This webinar titled ‘Intellectual Property in Creative Industries’ was relevant for social sector organizations connected with creative industries.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce. IP is an important aspect in the age of globalization as organizations look beyond borders to do business.

Led by Guriqbal Singh Jaiya, Director-Advisor to the Executive Director, WIPO Academy of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), this webinar provided an overview of some important principles and practices related to IP that social enterprises should consider if they wish to successfully scale up and achieve impact.

Four major rights constitute IP:

  1. Copyrights
  2. Industrial Design
  3. Trademarks
  4. Patents

However, there are a large number of other rights including Trade Secrets, Geographical Indications, Integrated Circuits, Plant Variety Protection Registrations, and rights pertaining to personality, domain names, etc.

There are three categories of organizations in the creative industries:

  1. Organizations which are traditional and run by individuals;
  2. Organizations which are modern, big businesses and digitally driven;
  3. Hybrid organizations that operate between traditional and modern structures in the form of small enterprises or micro enterprises in the commercial and digital environment.

Much cultural and creative work may not happen in the business space but in civil society and organizations in the social space. For any business to succeed, creative or otherwise, it has to offer something that is unique and different from other competitive offerings. The product has to have a unique value proposition. It could provide the same quality at a lower price, or the same quality and same price but delivered much faster.

There is a need to understand the use of Copyrights vs. Patents. In simple terms, when there is a lot of creativity in a sector, the focus shifts to copyrights; and when there is a lot of innovation, the focus shifts to patents. In creative industries, the focus largely remains on copyrights, trademarks and geographical indications. Much of the marketing that focuses on branding also relates to copyrights.

Trademarks are very important for branding as brands play a major role in product identification and sale. People do not buy several things on a daily basis. Rather, they buy several brands. Therefore, a brand is a promise to consistently deliver on the core product or service that is linked to the brand.

Some intellectual property rights (IPRs) are considered weak and some strong. A brief description of each of these categories is included below:

  1. Patent: In the strongest category, we have the patent right that is usually granted for an invention, a technical solution for a problem that has to be sufficiently new and non-obvious to the people in that field. Patents, once granted, last for around 20 years.
  2. Industrial Designs: They pertain to the visual appeal of the product (could be in two or three dimensions) and time limits are rather short, ranging from 10 to 20 years depending on the country.
  3. Copyrights: These last for the lifetime of the creator/author and even longer depending on the laws of that country. Copyrights, when compared to patents, are a weak form of IP. Under patent law, an independent creation is also deemed to be theft. In copyright law, an independent creation, even if identical, is not deemed to be theft of copyright.
  4. Trademarks: These pertain to either a word or a symbol that give a distinguished identity to the good or service. Trademarks are usually granted for 10 years and can last for perpetuity, provided they continue to function as a trademark in the market place. Registration of a trademark is recommended, as there would be a legal sanctity associated with it. Furthermore, misuse can be avoided.
  5. Geographical Indications (GIs): Governments across the world use GIs to give a boost to rural enterprises. This helps promote tourism, improve incomes and stem migration of population from rural to urban areas.
  6. Trade Secrets: These are also an important component in business. A large number of small secrets add up to a big competitive advantage in any business including creative businesses. Trade secrets could include details of suppliers, customers, marketing strategy, production process, etc.

In conclusion, enterprises in creative industries need to be aware of the IP system and specifically know who owns different types of intellectual property. This is the key to resolve differences between various participants in the value chain and gain competitive advantage.

To learn more on this topic, please watch the complete webinar below: