The role of Intellectual Property Law in fostering technological advancements
The fundamental cause, of many causes, behind societal change and economic growth is innovation. Intellectual Property law puts innovation on a pedestal and creates an environment that safeguards creativity and promotes invention. It confers an array of rights to the proprietor of works that are the product of human intellect. So, it can be said that the fundamental principle of intellectual property law, be it copyright, trademarks, patents, and all on this spectrum, intends to protect the fundamental cause of societal and economic growth. Intellectual Property law protects and devises a mechanism to incentivise, inventions, designs, codes, image rights, brand identities and many more, to encourage innovation.
IP law indeed provides dominion over the product of the intellect and this exclusivity and incentive over the product for a set period encourages the stakeholders to invest time, capacity, and capital to further advancement. This nurtures a cycle of continuous technological progress and streamlines the process of innovation. It does not only put the wheels of innovation into motion but also facilitates knowledge sharing through disclosure in IP filings and technology transfer. The strong regime of IP laws plays a pivotal part for entrepreneurs in securing funding from venture capitalists for their innovation. It also helps in maintaining competition in the market and in turn fuelling economic growth. This is possible as the promise of exclusivity promotes investment in R&D and innovation. Along with rapid economic growth through competition, the set principles of royalty, ownership, and licensing develop an ecosystem of trust, as the fear of intellectual theft and resultant loss is negated through a robust regime the IP laws, and it creates an opportunity for collaboration in both horizontal and vertical market among the business. This collaboration amplifies technological advancement.
However, the IP regime is not short of its criticisms. The economic growth linked with it is highly dependent on the development status of a country. The developed countries more often enjoy the fruits in comparison to the developing or underdeveloped countries. It is hypothesised that the existence of stronger IP regimes in most jurisdictions diminishes the benefits once garnered. The exclusivity of IP rights leads to monopolistic trade practices adversely affecting the competition and manipulating the free market to have control over the tariff and prices. It hampers the choice of the consumer.
The resource and investment constraints in developing and underdeveloped leads to the imitation of innovation. The influence of technological development in developing and underdeveloped nations depends on the channels via which the technology is transferred. The trade channel may benefit both developed and developing nations in the short term but it may also cause a long-term slowdown in global growth. The FDI channel may cause a shift in production and encourage an environment of invention leading to a strong IP regime, but if the access to imitation is not controlled, the production will shift and these nations will be left with limited resources. The licencing channel balances the cost of technology transmission and prevents imitation, In the long term, it reduces the licensing cost as the developed nations have resources to innovate and developing nations through their IP regime curtailing imitation proving to be mutually beneficial.
It is challenging for the existing IP legal frameworks to keep up with technological advancement. Blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other related technologies provide unique challenges in identifying the inventor, characterising the innovation, and deciding whether such ideas should be covered by IP protection. Additionally, there is an increase in demand for worldwide access to healthcare and innovation. They shouldn’t be covered by IP protection, it is contended.
The objective is to strike a balance between access to innovation that leads to technological advancement and necessity, thus there cannot be any blanket access. However, it cannot be disputed that IP legislation plays a crucial role in advancing technology.
(The writer is Assistant Professor, UPES School of Law)