Theory of Intellectual Property Rights

Theory of Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual Property LAW EXPLAINED
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Intellectual Property Rights and Types

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

In India, the intellectual property rights can be briefly categorised as,

  • “Copyright – this protects written or published works such as books, songs, films, web content, and artistic works.
  • Patents – this protects commercial inventions, for example, a new business product or
  • Designs – this protects designs, such as drawings or computer
  • Trademarks – this protects signs, symbols, logos, words, or sounds that distinguish your products and services from those of your competitors.” (Intellectual Property Office)

Theories related to IPR

  • Natural Right Theory

According to this theory everyone has a natural property right over their ideas. According to John Locke, a person has a natural right over the production of their intellectual labours i.e. A person has a natural right to the fruits of their labour and it should be recognized as their property, whether in a tangible or intangible term. John Locke has two theses,

“1) everyone has a property right in the labour of his own body. The labour of his body and the work of his hands are properly his.

2) The appropriation of an unowned object (ideas or theories) arises out of the application of human labour to that object. Mixing one’s own labour with unowned things confers upon a property right in the whole thing. However, after appropriation there must remain objects of similar quality in sufficient quantity for others: “Enough and as good left for others.” (Mersha and Debsu)

The problem with this theory is that people who put in intellectual labour in improving an existing product and getting the rights over the improved product clearly contradicts the main idea of preventing someone’s right from theft. This happens because John Locke has not given any particular level of labour that a person has to do in order to identify their product under intellectual property rights.

  • Personality Theory

According to this theory, the importance is given to the point of view of the individual rather than that of the society as a whole, while analysing intellectual property rights. According to Hagel, a person would be more self-assertive when he/she owns the property. He also believes that the person should be given the right to decide when and how their work is presented in front of people and also have the right to prevent changes in his work.

The problem with this theory is that the personality or characteristic is not connected nor influenced by the result of the creation. The work after completed relies on the general public and not the creator. As a matter of fact, the work gets importance simply because the others choose to join the significance for the same.

  • Utilitarian Theory

This theory states that a person who works on things such as industrial progress or cultural goods which benefits the society as a whole should get the intellectual property rights as an incentive because of the profit that they bring for the whole society.

  • Ethic and Reward Theory

This theory justifies the exclusive rights of intellectual property with some moral and ethical aspects. The exclusive rights are “an expression of gratitude to an author for doing more than society expects or feels that they are obliged to do”.(Bently and Sherman)

Work Cited

  • Bently L. and Sherman B., Intellectual Property Law (3rd edn Oxford University Press 2008), 36

Intellectual Property Office. “Intellectual Property Rights in India.” Assets.Publishing.Service.Gov.Uk,


  • MERSHA, BALEW, and KAHSAY DEBESU. “Theories of Intellectual Property

Rights.” Abyssinialaw.Com, 2 Apr. 2012, resources/study-on-line/item/468-theoriesofintellectualproperty#:~:text=Property%20right%20is%20a%20natural,owns%20creation%20of%20his%20labour.&text=Intellectual%20property%20is%20most%20of,the%20protection%20accorded%20by%20law.

This blog is written by Amrit Rathi, Jindal Global Law School

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