The twenty first century has been accepted as a century of information with the amount of information increasing with a geometrical progression, however this tendency is associated with a set of challenges that include protection of intellectual property which can be defined as any patterns of original creation that can be purchased or sold. Main forms of intellectual property protection are patenting, trademarks, trade secrets and copyright.
Patenting is a popular way of protecting intellectual property, and patents are obtained for inventions that have potentials to generate revenues for inventor. Patents allow the patent holder to market the invention and patenting rights to the third party or license the invention when retaining intellectual property rights. Patents are considered to be intangible assets and many global businesses possess considerable amount of such type of asset. For example, gross carrying amount of patents of Ford Motor Company has exceeded USD 27 million by 2012 with the net carrying amount of USD 7 millions (Annual Report, 2012).
Due to increasing numbers of innovations, and willingness of businesses to take advantage of these innovations there are many patent infringement lawsuits amongst many multinational corporations at any given time. For example, one of the most recent and noteworthy patent infringement disputes is the one between Finland-based global communications corporations – Nokia and HTC its Taiwan-based direct competitor. Patent infringement dispute initiated by Nokia for the use of Broadcom and Qualcom chip for HTC One model has attracted extensive media coverage due to its scale and significance and Nokia has emerged as a victor in the dispute with detrimental impacts on HTC in terms of damage to the brand image and future profits (Arthur, 2013).
Moreover, there are instances where businesses decide to end their patent infringement disputes due to cost considerations of lawsuits, damage to brand image for both sides and other reasons. For example, the decision of Samsung and LG strategic level management to cease their counter claims over OLED technology was received with surprise by many industry experts (Schroeder, 2013).
Trademark is a distinguished sign that is associated exclusively with a business entity. In order to be registered in the UK trademarks need to be distinctive, legal, non-offensive, and non-deceptive. Trademarks can be ordinary, certifications marks or collective marks. Ordinary trademark is the most common type of trademark and it is used to specify the owner company of the product. Virgin, BP, British Airways are suitable examples of UK-owned trademarks.
Certifications trade mark aim to assert guarantee regarding certain aspects of the product. Fairtrade mark visible on a range of food and grocery products such as coffee sold by Starbucks Coffee Company is a good example for certification mark.
Collective trademarks, on the other hand, communicate the information of belonging to a specific trade association. For example the abbreviation of ILGWU on a clothing product would indicate that the manufacturer is a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.
It is important to acknowledge that certification trademark and collective trademark do not fully relate to the protection of intellectual property, nevertheless they are mentioned in this essay in order to deepen the scope of discussions and analysis to answer the question.
Trade secrets relate to specific methods, processes, designs etc. that contribute to the competitive edge of the business and guarded by the business from competitors and other external parties. Trade secrets are protected by getting employees with access to the secret to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Secret element of the Coca-Cola drink is one of the most sought after, and effectively guarded so far trade secrets. Moreover, KFC’s ‘Secret Recipe of 11 Herbs and Spices’ and Bush’s baked bean’s ‘Secret Family Recipe’ are popular examples for well-guarded trade secrets that have generated substantial amounts of revenues for their owners.
It is important to note that unless qualified to additional forms of intellectual property protection such as patenting and protected accordingly, trade secrets on their own are not protected once they reach the public domain.
Copyright is used to protect certain range of intellectual property that includes written texts, sound and music, patterns of knitting and others. Copyright is an automatic right and no formal procedures need to be followed by individual and corporate owners in order to be protected by this type of intellectual property protection. Similar to patents as discussed above, the cases of copyright infringement claims are widespread.
The advent of internet has increased the numbers of copyright infringement cases that are facilitated through illegal online share of copyrighted content, blogging without providing references in an appropriate manner, and many other ways.
One of the most noteworthy copyright infringement claims has been filed by photographer Kai Eiselein against a major internet portal BuzzFeed. The portal has used a photo posted by Eiselein on Flickr social networking website in an online collection entitled “The 30 Funniest Header Faces” This case is noteworthy because damages to Eiselein for the single use of a single photo have been assessed around USD 3.6 million (Villasenor, 2013).
Other forms of intellectual property protection in the UK include design right, plant breeders right, publication right, database right and others.
Annual Report (2012) Ford Motor Company
Arthur, C. (2013) “HTC sales may be banned in UK after Nokia wins patent dispute” The Guardian, Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/03/nokia-patent-dispute-htc-sales-banned-uk
Schroeder, S. (2013) “Samsung and LG end Display Technology Patent Dispute” Mashable, Available at: http://mashable.com/2013/09/24/samsung-and-lg-end-patent-dispute/
Villasenor, J. (2013) “Copyright Infringement and Photo Sharing: A New Lawsuit Tests The Limits of Fair Use” Forbes