Piracy, a threat to innovation
The past decade opened the world to the possibilities and depths associated with information technology, but along with it came the need more than ever to protect intellectual property.
The Internet has made access to information easy, which has led people to believe that they can reproduce any information. For instance, a website, Lexology, noted that after the lockdown was declared, there was a growing incidence of fake domains being created that had copyright-protected information in them.
In 1998, an act was passed in the United States that aimed to prohibit unauthorised access and exploitation of protected works on the Internet by applying two treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). This was seen as a tremendous move towards embracing intellectual property rights and integrating legal protection in the digital scenario.
There are many kinds of IP laws to protect digital publications and access rights of digitised archives. Examples of IP include inventions, articles, blog posts, books, logos, slogans, tagline, photos, music, business names, movies, games, applications, literary and artistic works among others.
In a recent report obtained from Statista, the number of patent applications worldwide is 3,224,200 with the United States listed as the best environment for intellectual property with an overall score of 47.64 points in 2020.
However, the status quo has been challenged by strong growth in Asian markets, especially China. For example, the number of patent applications in China’s high tech industry has exploded in the last decade, with 2018 applications four times what they were in 2008.
In 2019, the national patent office of China received the most patent applications worldwide with about 1.4 million patent applications from resident and non-resident companies or organisations. The United States followed with around 621 thousand patent applications.
In this survey, no African country was listed in the ranking of the 20 national patent offices. This has brought to light the distance the continent has uncovered in terms of intellectual property.
Chief Executive Officer, New Horizons Nigeria, Tim Akano observed that countries that respect intellectual property, develop faster than countries that don’t because it takes effort to come up with an idea, adding that gains of pirates are always short-lived.
“Piracy kills original ideas and discourages people from innovating. If more people patent invented things, pirates would be out of business,” he stated.
He called for measures to strengthen the existing law that protect intellectual property.
“There is need to ensure there is no avenue for pirates to thrive. Once the pirates do what is wrong and are not punished for it, more people would join because it is a fast means of getting money. So the bulk of the work is on regulators and the government to ensure that these people don’t profit from their wrong action,” Akano said
Partner, Eminence Solicitors, Ifeoma Ben, explained that IP rights only protect the creativity of the mind to invent something, but does not cover the physical object, which represents the work of the mind.
She stated that the rights could be transferred from the owner to another. They can be bought, sold or licensed.
“The owner of IP can share rights with several other people, meaning the IP is indivisible, but the rights attached to it are divisible.
“In the event of any legal issue on intellectual property, the national law protecting IP applies,” Ben added. She however noted that since piracy is as old as man, it may not be possible to completely eradicate it, but with the right measures it could be reduced to bearest minimum. She called for proper enforcement of anti piracy laws.
According to her, cost and restriction of mass production of works play a role in minimising piracy. She said “getting access to original work can be unattractive to the consumer in terms of cost. Innovators should ensure they have fair pricing and restrictions can also be placed on mass production of creative works.”
On steps to protect intellectual property, Ben, who is also the founder, Legal Business Network, stressed that registration of the intellectual property, as copyright, trademark, patent or industrial design is the first action, adding that various patents be applied for.
“File multiple patents, based on different methods and variations through which the products can be made. Filing International patents would give you monopoly over your invention in a wider territory, because intellectual property rights are territorial. Keep applying for patent as you develop your innovation,” she said.