Intellectual Property Rights Issues in Information Society

D G Medhi and Hiren K D Sarma


Technological advancement in the twentieth century was tremendous. Introduction of Information Technology has changed the working environment in an organization and daily life of individuals. In a bigger sense it has brought a drastic change to the society. Impact of information technology on the society can be observed in both the directions, positive and negative. If we consider as an employee in an organization the protection of individual work is an issue. Again if we consider an organization (specially an IT industry) as a whole, the protection of their product against illegal use is another important issue. For both the cases there is a strong necessity of legal framework for the proper protection of right. It is known that patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new solution to a problem. Therefore, a patent provides protection for invention to the owner of the patent for a limited period. Here, patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed or sold without the patent owner’s consent. Then there is a fundamental question – what kind of invention can be protected? There is a constant argument going on regarding software products or computer programs, whether they are patentable or not. As the patent rules differ form country to country, in a few countries some softwares are patented, but in India the rules do not allow to patent softwares or computer programs. For example, in US Patent No 504,579 there is a claimed and disclosed method and device for automatically controlling the period of photographic development and a photosensitive material for the purpose of obtaining a substantially same or optimum photographic development result at various temperatures. Utilizing the knowledge of a certain relation between the time period of photographic development and the temperature of the photographic developer which will produce a same photographic development result, the time period of photographic development is adjusted, for instance, by changing the speed of a conveyor carrying the photosensitive material through the photographic developer. The mentioned relationship may not be always expected by a linear function with a desired accuracy but may be approximated with a desired accuracy by means of various mathematical functions such at polynomial and irrational functions.

This patent is based on computer programs and it was allowed because technical effects were produced by the operation of the computer programs. It can be concluded that if no technical effects were produced, no patent will be available in respect of the programmed computer. And this indicates computer programs are also patentable.

Patents provide incentives to individuals by offering them recognition for their creativity and material reward for their marketable inventions. These incentives encourage innovation, which assure that the quality of human is continuously enhanced. Therefore, it is believed that the process patent can play a great role in technological advancements. This is true for information society also. If the issue of software patent is considered, there are two directions. In one direction, protection of right of an individual may be considered. In the other direction, protections of right of an organization may be considered if the invention is from within the organization. A patent can really motivate an individual or encourage an organization for more advancements. Here in this paper, the necessities of proper protection of individual rights in IT industries are discussed elaborately. For the case studies different IT industries in India are considered and a few professionals are interviewed.

Another issue is the patent duration. It is observed that the durability in terms of years against a patent varies from countries to countries. Without any improvement or addition to an innovation, the patent against the innovation is going to be lost after a particular duration. Here we are addressing this issue in the global context.

Again information and communication technologies have an important role in introducing the concept of global village. Mobility of people and product has increased rapidly. Therefore, it is felt that there is a need of a global information society where rules and regulations will be implemented in a global context. It is worthy to feel the necessity of uniform rules and regulations regarding the protection of inventions related to software or computer programs regardless of geographical regions.

In this paper the authors address the issue of software patent. For this, several IT professionals are consulted. Their views are considered in drawing the inferences regarding this issue. The paper also investigates the issue of the necessity of global information society with uniform rules and regulations. Several sets of statistical data based on the consultation with IT professionals are presented with the help of bar diagram and pi-chart.