The world has transformed into a global village, as goods and services move seamless across borders. Companies and organisations are becoming more and more multinational, with production and research centres spread across many countries. What is the impact of globalisation on intellectual property rights, or IPR? Let’s take a look.
Because of the growing importance of IPRs in the current global scenario, there have been international agreements to protect IPR rights. One of the most important agreements was Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), an agreement between all members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which includes India. TRIPs requires members to protect patents and copyrights.
Many in the developing countries feel that globalisation of intellectual property rights may not be in their best interests. They feel such protection could deny access to products from the developed world to its citizens. For example, patent protection for certain drugs could lead to inaccessible and costlier medicines. There are fears in India that generic drugs could become costlier because of IPR protection. In India, compulsory licensing does provide a way out to ensure lifesaving drugs are accessible. The Doha Declaration also allows some leeway in patent protection to ensure essential medicines for all. Another concern is that of food security. In recent times, in India courts have granted protection to patented genetically modified seeds, causing concern among some segments of the farming population.
One of the more contentious global intellectual property rights issues is the insistence on IPR protection by countries in the West. They feel that it is vital to ensure there is enough incentive for innovation.
Copyright protection impacts the entertainment and music industries.
Though the level of IPR protection in India is quite limited, it is picking up momentum, especially as international companies consider India as a crucial market for their products and services. Indian companies too will benefit from better protection for patents, as they come up with more innovative products and services. With the signing of the TRIPs agreement, India indicated its willingness to ensure better protection for IPR rights. The Madrid Protocol, which offers trademark protection, also sends a signal about India’s intentions.
Global intellectual property rights issues can be complex. Governments in developing countries have to perform a delicate balancing act between providing better IPR protection and ensuring the interests of its citizens are protected. There are some who argue that the level of development in India is still quite low and innovation restricted, so we will need some time before allowing international companies to patent essential products. On the other hand, there are others who claim that an atmosphere of innovation and research can only be developed with better IPR protection.