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What happens to the products of your intellect?

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You have been hearing the words “Intellectual Property” (abbreviated IP) but what do they mean to you? Intellectual Property refers to products of the mind or the intellect. When a person creates something that is novel or original – a song, a dance, a book, a poem, a trademark these are worthy of protection as intellectual property just as other property such as a piece of land is protected by the laws of a country. {{more}}

We have all seen the advertisement on television of the electric lamp that could be switched on and off when someone claps. The inventor laments and moans about not having registered his invention. If someone does not register his invention there is a possibility that someone else would do so. The result is that the person who registers the invention gets the benefit and the actual inventor does not get the full fruits of his labour. It is difficult to keep track of and to protect many intellectual property items. An artiste records a song and it is immediately reproduced by others who fail to reward him for his efforts. Pirating of the creative work of artistes has become a serious problem.

Many countries now offer facilities and have instituted regulations for the registration of intellectual property but not all items have been traditionally registrable. Take for instance the items that are protected under copyright laws- literary (books) and artistic works. Copyright laws come into effect as soon as the item is created. Some countries believe that there is no need for registration but others like the United States now offer registration facilities.

There are difficulties in apprehending those who infringe the author’s rights. Books could be easily photocopied and this could rob the author of the rewards of his labour. Books carry the copyright sign ((c)) and bear warnings about reproducing the work of the author without his permission. The author may institute action in Court against any one who reproduces, translates or adapts his work without his permission.

This need for protection of intellectual property was recognized many years ago. Several countries came together in the Treaty of Paris in 1883 to recognize industrial property rights. In 1886 the Treaty of Berne gave recognition to literary and artistic works. The United Nation saw it fit to create a specialized agency known as World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for the protection and promotion of intellectual property. This agency is located in Geneva, Switzerland. It realized that protection and recognition of rights through the cooperation of all nation states would help to promote the works of creators of intellectual property and benefit the country as a whole. Hence, countries are urged to become members of WIPO.

WIPO has been exploring other areas and quite recently traditional knowledge has come into focus. The organization considers the need to protect holders of traditional knowledge, innovations and culture.

St Vincent and the Grenadines is a member state of WIPO and it is a signatory to many of the treaties, the most recent being the Patent Corporation Treaty. The Patent Cooperation treaty which provides for the registration of inventions became law in 2004. When it comes into force it will end the system of re-registration of patents registered in England or Europe. Before 2003, trade marks were registered in England or Europe and re-registered in SVG. The system of re-registration was burdensome and trademarks are now registered directly in SVG. The country can benefit in a more meaningful way from registration while giving a degree of protection to the creators of intellectual property.

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