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This article is written by Pooja. L of 4th year of University Law College, Bangalore University, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


This article delves into the intricacies of enforcing intellectual property rights (IPRs) globally, highlighting both challenges and opportunities. Beginning with an introduction to the concept of intellectual property and its historical evolution, the article explores the diverse types of IPRs and their significance in fostering innovation and economic growth. It discusses the globalization of IPRs, emphasizing the role of international agreements like the TRIPS Agreement in standardizing IP protection worldwide. However, challenges such as diverse IP laws, weak enforcement mechanisms, political interference, and infrastructural deficiencies hinder effective enforcement. Furthermore, varying patent standards and inconsistent trademark and copyright protection across countries add complexity to the landscape. Despite these challenges, the article identifies opportunities for improvement, including raising awareness of IP rights, enhancing IP infrastructure, reinforcing legal safeguards, and harnessing international agreements and entities. It concludes by emphasizing the importance of collaboration, transparency, legislative adjustments, and international cooperation in addressing the complexities of IP enforcement and fostering an environment conducive to innovation, creativity, and economic growth.


Types of IPR, Patent Trial & Appellate Board, Globalization of IPR, Problems of IPR, Apple v. Qualcomm.


Intellectual property, which includes things like inventions, artistic works, and written materials, is just like physical property, such as houses or cars. This means creators have rights over their intellectual property, like the right to sell it, control who can use it, and make copies of it. These rights encourage creators to keep making new things and benefit the public. These rights are recognized in important documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are also international agreements, like the Paris Convention and the Berne Convention, that protect intellectual property. These agreements are managed by organizations like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

In today’s knowledge-driven society, ideas play a crucial role in generating wealth and progress. This has led to the concept of intellectual property, covering inventions, artistic works, and commercial designs. With intellectual property becoming central to global issues like climate change and food security, diplomats need to grasp its fundamentals.

While intellectual property rights promote innovation and legal order, they’ve also widened the gap between developed and developing nations. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon emphasized the need to balance innovation incentives with technology access, noting that lack of access can be harmful.

Intellectual property rights often complicate knowledge-sharing and technology transfer negotiations. Strategic approaches are required to ensure benefits for creators and the global community. Since WIPO’s establishment in 1967 and the TRIPS agreement in 1995, countries have implemented laws to protect these rights, encouraging innovation. For instance, India passed laws in 1999 to safeguard creations, leading to a thriving tech industry amid brain drain concerns. UNITAR and WIPO organize annual seminars at the UN Headquarters to enhance diplomats’ understanding of intellectual property.

The main reasons for protecting intellectual property are to give creators incentives by safeguarding their rights and to ensure that the public can benefit from their creations. Another reason is to encourage sharing and using new ideas, which helps economic and social growth. Overall, the purpose of laws about intellectual property is to support inventors and creators by giving them control over how their creations are used.


In medieval Europe, guilds of artisans were granted special rights by the government to control various industries. These guilds had significant power over things like importing, selling, and producing inventions and goods. However, this power was often misused, stifling innovation instead of encouraging creators. The government and church used these rights to control ideas, like with the Stationer’s Company in England in 1556, which aimed to suppress the Protestant Reformation movement by controlling the printing industry. Intellectual property laws began to form as a response to this misuse of power, aiming to balance the need for innovation with the rights of creators. The idea of granting limited monopolies, like patents, to encourage innovation gained support, with scholars like Jeremy Bentham arguing that it was fair for creators to profit from their investments in research and development.

The concept of intellectual property dates back to ancient Greece, where regulations allowed citizens to obtain patents for new inventions. Over time, copyright, trademark, and patent laws became more complex, but the goal remained the same: to incentivize creativity and allow creators to benefit from their work. The first significant intellectual property law, the Statute of Monopolies, was enacted in 1623 in England, aiming to curb the excessive power of guilds over various industries.

India: Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in India have a long history, going back to ancient times when society valued protecting knowledge and innovations through oral traditions, manuscripts, and local customs. However, formal legal systems for IPR started during British colonial rule, primarily benefiting British interests. Post-independence in 1947, India began crafting its own IPR laws to suit its needs. The Patents Act of 1970 aimed to boost indigenous innovation while ensuring access to essential goods and services. It included measures like compulsory licensing to prevent patent abuse.

In 1980, India acknowledged the importance of safeguarding semiconductor designs with the Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act. Amendments to patent laws in 1999 and 2005 aligned India with international standards and encouraged foreign investment. India’s Copyright Act of 1957 marked a significant step in protecting creative works like literature, music, and films. Amendments have addressed modern challenges like digital piracy and the rights of creators in the digital era. In recent years, India has strengthened its IPR regime to foster innovation-driven growth and has actively engaged in global discussions and agreements while balancing the interests of creators, consumers, and public welfare.


  1. Copyrights: Copyright law grants the copyright owner the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and communicate their original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. Additionally, they have the right to create adaptations, translations, cinematograph films, and sound recordings based on their work. This encompasses various forms of creative expression including cinematograph films and sound recordings. Literary works also include computer programme including databases.
  2. Industrial Properties: Industrial Property, a type of intellectual property, encompasses human creations like inventions and industrial designs. Inventions are novel solutions to technical issues, while industrial designs define the look of industrial products. Additionally, it covers trademarks, service marks, layout designs, and similar elements as follows,
  3. Patents: The expression Patent implies a right granted to a person who invents or discovers a new and useful process, product, or article, where the right referred to is not regarding the use or practice of the invention but to exclude others from misusing his invention by selling or importing such patented invention without prior consent from the inventor during its period.
  4. Trademarks: A trademark is a distinctive sign or symbol used to identify and distinguish goods or services of one seller or provider from those of others. It can be a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination thereof, serving as a recognizable indicator of origin.
  5. Designs: Designs under intellectual property rights (IPR) refer to the visual appearance of a product or its ornamentation. They can include features such as lines, contours, colors, shapes, textures, and materials. Industrial designs specifically relate to the aesthetic aspects of products, distinguishing them from others in the market.
  6. Plant Varieties: Plant varieties under intellectual property rights (IPR) pertain to the protection of new and distinct varieties of plants. This protection allows breeders to have exclusive rights over the propagation, sale, and distribution of these varieties for a specified period. It encourages innovation and investment in plant breeding by providing legal protection for the efforts and investments made in developing new plant varieties.
  7. Geographical Indications: Geographical indications (GIs) are signs used on products with a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, reputation, or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin. They protect producers of goods with unique qualities or characteristics derived from their geographical location. GIs help prevent unauthorized use of the geographical name on products that do not originate from that specific region, thereby safeguarding the reputation and integrity of the products.
  8. Layout designs: Layout designs also known as semiconductor layout designs or semiconductor topographies, refer to the three-dimensional arrangement of the elements in an integrated circuit (IC) or semiconductor chip. These designs encompass the spatial layout of the various components such as transistors, resistors, capacitors, and interconnections within the semiconductor chip. Layout designs are protected under intellectual property rights to prevent unauthorized copying or reproduction of the layout by others, thereby promoting innovation and investment in the semiconductor industry.
  9. Trade secrets: They are confidential and valuable information that provides a competitive advantage to a business. This information can include formulas, processes, techniques, methods, customer lists, or any other proprietary knowledge that is not generally known or easily ascertainable by others. Trade secrets are protected under intellectual property laws through confidentiality agreements and other measures to prevent unauthorized disclosure or use by competitors.

In most countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and even in India, IP laws cover patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets, including invention and utility model patents, registered trademarks, and protection for creative works. Additionally in China, an e-commerce law strengthens IP protection for online transactions. Also, Amendments to the Unfair Competition Prevention Act (UCPA) bolster trade secret protection in Japan.


Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) have become a global issue, especially with the establishment of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement in 1994 by the World Trade Organization (WTO). This agreement aimed to standardize IP protection worldwide. There’s been debate over the importance of IPRs, with Western corporations and governments valuing them highly, while global movements and developing countries have raised concerns about their impact on knowledge sharing and innovation. Less developed countries should focus on building their capacity to absorb knowledge and foster innovation, rather than solely relying on strong IPRs. Learning from developed countries’ experiences and encouraging creativity is crucial.

The history of IPRs goes back centuries, with the modern patent system originating in Venice in 1474. However, the debate over intellectual property dates even further back, with ancient thinkers like Aristotle discussing the incentives and drawbacks of rewarding creators. Throughout history, the enforcement of intellectual property laws has been driven by political and economic interests. For example, during the British Industrial Revolution, laws were enacted to control the transfer of technology and protect British interests.


  • Diverse IP laws: Variations in IP regulations across Asian countries pose challenges for businesses. For instance, In the United Kingdom, Intellectual Property rights are considered private rights, but when infringement becomes widespread and damaging, it becomes a matter of public concern.
  • Weak enforcement: Some nations lack strict mechanisms for enforcing IP rights, leading to issues like counterfeiting and piracy. Infringement can occur through deliberate actions of serious infringers or unwitting participation in activities like accessing free streaming sites or purchasing counterfeit goods which results in greater complexity to deal with if the country has such weak enforcement.
  • Limited legal remedies: Governmental laws play a crucial role in ensuring the viability of IP rights and protecting businesses, creators, and innovators. Howevercertain countries offer limited or no legal recourse for IP infringement, hindering businesses from protecting their assets effectively.
  • Political Interference: Governments must support legitimate businesses and innovators by addressing infringement that threatens their survival and must take action against infringement to maintain the integrity of IP rights and foster a conducive environment for innovation and investment, but sometimes political interference may hamper such actions taken by the government.
  • Infrastructural challenges: The Intellectual Property Offices across the continent face significant infrastructural challenges, including limited financial resources and outdated technology. Many operate with insufficient staff and expertise, relying on archaic paper-based systems or closed IP registers that hinder easy access to information. These deficiencies result in delays in IP registrations, elevated costs, lower examination and enforcement standards, and burdensome paperwork for IP owners. In essence, the lack of adequate infrastructure hampers efficient IP management, impacting both stakeholders and the broader economy.
  • Hamper Technological Development: IP rights only serve to inflate profits and stifle competition. Over the last twenty years, changes in intellectual property (IP) law have contributed to a perception that the legal system is inclined towards preserving the existing state of affairs by strengthening the rights of creators in response to technological progress. This means that as technology has advanced, the laws governing IP have been modified to provide creators with more extensive rights and protections. This perception arises from the observation that legal reforms and decisions tend to prioritize the interests of creators and rights holders over other stakeholders, such as consumers or competitors. As a result, there is a perception that the legal system aims to maintain stability and support the interests of established creators and industries, rather than embracing more transformative changes that could arise from technological advancements. These perceptions suggest a bias in favor of IP rights holders, evident in the prevalence of counterfeit goods, and a call for reform in the U.S. patent system can be seen recently.
  • Varying patent standards: Differences in patentability criteria among Asian countries affect businesses’ ability to obtain and enforce patents, impacting innovation and competitiveness. Also, the debate over patentable inventions persists, but the industry focus should shift towards addressing disparities between patent acquisition ease and challenge difficulty, along with prolonged application processing times. Companies often employ rigorous criteria to assess patentability, prioritizing novelty and non-obviousness, yet this may exclude deserving inventions from protection. High volumes of patent applications, such as the 300,000 received annually by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, contribute to prolonged processing times averaging four years, raising concerns about patent quality. Some propose a system of automatic patent grants followed by challenges, but this risks further public skepticism towards the patent system.
  • Trademark and copyright protection: Inconsistent protection of trademarks and copyrights across countries undermines businesses’ efforts to safeguard their branding and creative works. Establishing a global copyright framework, overseen by organizations like WIPO and WTO, is essential for maintaining the equilibrium between creator and public rights. Content publishing industries and copyright sectors face a dilemma between pursuing additional rights and enforcement methods or utilizing existing legal protections fairly. While criminal piracy remains a concern, most consumers are willing to pay reasonable prices for copyrighted works through accessible platforms like the iTunes website. Consumers demonstrate a willingness to pay for digital downloads they can freely transfer across devices, highlighting the importance of fair use. However, managing fair use without widespread distribution of protected content, as seen on peer-to-peer networks, poses a significant challenge for the IP industry. Effective solutions require legislative adjustments and the implementation of acceptable technical systems that balance the interests of content creators and the public. Measures should include expanding online distribution channels as alternatives to unauthorized sharing, vigorous enforcement of existing IP rights targeting distributors, and international cooperation in enforcement efforts.
  • Licensing intellectual property rights: Licensing IP rights involves granting permission from the IP owner to another party to utilize the IP according to specified terms, conditions, and duration, within a defined scope and territory. Despite granting permission, the IP owner retains ownership of the IP. Many companies acquire patents with the primary intent of licensing or selling them to generate revenue from their innovations without engaging in manufacturing or service provision. Conversely, some firms actively seek patents for acquisition to accelerate their research and development endeavors. For instance, Daimler, which registered 2,000 patents in 2009, pays outside inventors to utilize their innovations in Daimler products. While filing patents is relatively affordable, defending them can be costly. Due to the workload of patent examiners, there’s a tendency to grant patents, resulting in overlapping patents and ambiguity in their interpretation. This ambiguity often leads to legal disputes, as even patentees and courts struggle to ascertain their precise meanings.
  • Lack of transparency: Complex legal landscapes and opaque processes make it challenging for businesses to navigate IP protection requirements and enforcement mechanisms.
  • High-profile disputes: Recent IP disputes such for instance in the case of Apple Inc. v. Qualcomm Inc.[1], Case No.: 3:17-cv-00108-GPC-MDD (S.D. Cal. Aug. 14, 2018) Qualcomm accused Apple of patent infringement, leading Apple to petition the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) for inter-parties review (IPR) of the patents in question. Before the PTAB could reach a decision, the parties settled their worldwide patent infringement litigation and entered into a global patent license agreement, resulting in the dismissal of the infringement case with prejudice. This meant that the case was resolved conclusively and could not be brought back to court.

Despite the settlement, Qualcomm accused Apple of infringement again, prompting Apple to seek IPR once more. Another settlement followed, leading to the dismissal of the district court action with prejudice, similar to the previous settlement. The PTAB then issued final written decisions, concluding that Apple had not proven various claims unpatentable. However, when Apple appealed the PTAB’s decisions to the Federal Circuit, the court dismissed the appeal for lack of Article III standing. This means that Apple did not have the legal right to bring the appeal because it lacked a sufficient stake or interest in the outcome of the case. Furthermore, Apple requested that if the Federal Circuit lacked jurisdiction, it should vacate the PTAB’s decisions to remove any doubt about the applicability of estoppel. (Estoppel refers to a legal principle that prevents a party from asserting a claim or defense that is inconsistent with a previous position taken by that party.)

In summary, despite Apple’s attempts to challenge Qualcomm’s patents through IPR and subsequent appeals, the Federal Circuit dismissed the appeals due to lack of standing, and the PTAB’s decisions remained in effect, such disputes underscore the complexities and challenges of IP protection in Asia.


Although safeguarding intellectual property (IP) globally poses its share of challenges, numerous avenues exist for businesses to enhance their protection strategies, such as the following:

  • Raising Awareness of IP Rights: One promising avenue for businesses involves elevating awareness surrounding IP rights among various stakeholders, including employees, customers, and partners. This entails educating staff about the criticality of safeguarding trade secrets and confidential information while also enlightening consumers about the significance of opting for authentic products over counterfeit alternatives.
  • Enhancing IP Infrastructure: Governments and enterprises alike can allocate resources towards fortifying the infrastructure dedicated to IP protection across Asia. This entails bolstering the capacity and efficacy of IP offices, along with investing in research and development endeavors aimed at devising innovative technologies for heightened IP security.
  • Reinforcing Legal Safeguards: Governments hold the key to reinforcing legal safeguards for IP throughout Asia by modernizing and rigorously enforcing prevailing laws and regulations. This could involve ramping up penalties for IP violations, expanding legal recourses available to businesses, and enhancing the transparency and predictability of the legal framework.
  • Harnessing International Agreements and Entities: Businesses can harness the power of international agreements and entities to fortify their IP protection strategies in Asia. This may involve pursuing patents or trademarks through organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or leveraging the expertise of entities like the International Trade Mark Association (INTA). By doing so, businesses can establish a robust framework for IP protection that carries recognition and enforceability across multiple jurisdictions.


In conclusion, the enforcement of intellectual property rights globally presents a multifaced landscape, encompassing both challenges and opportunities While intellectual property rights serve as essential incentives for innovation and creativity, their enforcement faces hurdles such as diverse legal frameworks, weak enforcement mechanisms, political interference, and infrastructural challenges. Moreover, varying patent standards and inconsistent trademark and copyright protection across countries further complicate the landscape.

However, amidst these challenges lie opportunities for improvement and advancement. Collaboration between nations, facilitated by international agreements and organizations like WIPO and WTO, offers a pathway to harmonizing intellectual property protection globally. Strengthening legal frameworks, enhancing enforcement mechanisms, and investing in infrastructural development can bolster intellectual property rights protection.

Moreover, embracing technological advancements and evolving business models, such as licensing intellectual property rights, presents avenues for innovation and revenue generation. Transparent processes, legislative adjustments, and international cooperation are vital in addressing the complexities of intellectual property enforcement.

High-profile disputes like the Apple Inc. v. Qualcomm Inc. case underscore the intricacies of intellectual property protection and the need for robust legal mechanisms. By learning from such disputes and leveraging emerging opportunities, stakeholders can navigate the challenges and foster an environment conducive to innovation, creativity, and economic growth on a global scale.


[1] Apple Inc. v. Qualcomm Inc., Case No.: 3:17-cv-00108-GPC-MDD (S.D. Cal. Aug. 14, 2018)

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