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Intellectual Property Laws in India


Last Updated on May 31, 2024 by Kanakkupillai

Have an incredible idea? The masterpiece in your head requires reinforcement! Protecting intangible ideas, like the “eureka!” moment or unique creation you just talked about, is what intellectual property (IP) is all about. 

India has a safety net for trade secrets, brands, patents, and copyrights. It is important for artists, companies, and people who want to protect their unique ideas to understand these rules.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property, more commonly abbreviated as IP, comprises creations of the human species that possess commercial value or have the capacity to do so. These varied creations function as economically significant intangible assets for both individuals and enterprises.

Trademark designations include identity indicators such as company names, logos, slogans, and even domain names. Copyrights safeguard authentic works of literature, performing arts, and visual art. Designs emphasise particular design attributes, such as size, shape, or colour combination, whereas patents pertain to recently developed products and processes.

An IP legislation framework is in place in India to ensure legal protection for these intellectual creations. These legislations grant innovators and creators the authority to regulate the monetization, accessibility, and utilisation of their intellectual properties. Under the particular form of intellectual property, legal protection may differ.

Different Types of Intellectual Property Rights

Let’s discuss the various forms of intellectual property rights granted by various Indian laws in this section. 

We shall conduct a more comprehensive examination of each of these intellectual property acts, encompassing fundamental aspects such as their rationale, registration requirements, and legal recourse in the event of unauthorised access to one’s intellectual property. It’s like a guidebook for understanding and navigating the Indian intellectual property rights environment.

1. The Copyrights Act, 1957 (“Copyright Act”)

Words are what protect an idea, not the thought itself. The Copyright Act’s Section 13 protects original works of theatre, music, literature, art, and sound recordings. It also covers pictures and sound recordings. Interestingly, security is also possible for computer programs.

Copyright is an exclusive right that grants the owner the authority to perform or permit specific actions with their creation. For example, the proprietor (or an authorised individual) may perform literary, dramatic, or musical works and produce translations or adaptations.

The original work’s author acquires first ownership of the work upon obtaining copyright protection, as stipulated in Section 17 of the Copyright Act. Additionally, the proprietor may grant licences for their creations to third parties via a documented accord.

Copyright protection extends for a period of sixty years after the author’s death, encompassing published dramatic, artistic, and literary works.

The Copyright Act bestows the author with special privileges pursuant to section 57. A person who fraudulently alters, mutilates, or reclassifies their original work to the detriment of their reputation may still “claim authorship” and “seek damages” even if they have delegated the work to another individual.

2. The Trade Marks Act, 1999 (“Trade Marks Act”)

As per section 2(zb) of the Trade Marks Act, the term “trade mark” is defined as “a graphical representation-capable indication that distinguishes the products or services of one individual from those of others; such indication may consist of a combination of colours, the form of the goods, or their packaging.” Simply put, a trademark safeguards any element, including but not limited to words, symbols, colours, and designs, that represents a particular product or service.

It may surprise you to learn that a trademark application may be submitted for both currently used and planned uses of a mark. An object or service must be physically representable and have a distinguishing feature to be eligible for trademark registration. The Trade Marks Act establishes absolute grounds for denial, which include the absence of distinctiveness, deception, religious sensitivity, or offensiveness. Additionally taken into account are relative grounds for refusal, including similarity to pre-existing marks.

As a signatory to the Madrid Protocol, India permits international trademark applications and registrations. Nevertheless, the initial requirement is to file the mark in India.

Important as it protects the distinctive identifiers of products and services (e.g., brand name, logo, voice, shape), trademark registration is vital. After the timely submission of renewal applications, the registration remains effective indefinitely for additional ten-year terms.

3. The Patents Act, 1970 (“Patents Act”)

A ‘Patent’ protects the inventor’s rights and prohibits unauthorised use by establishing a unique legal entitlement for a novel invention.

This protection is in effect for twenty years from the application filing date. To meet the eligibility criteria, the invention must satisfy the following criteria: it must be both “novel” and “original,” with no prior disclosure worldwide; it must apply to industry; and it must comprise inventive steps that demonstrate technical progress or economic importance.

Patents Act provisions confer the following privileges on inventors:

The right to restrict unauthorised use, sale, manufacture, or importation of a patented product by a third party…

The right to stop others from using, selling, or giving a product that comes from a copyrighted process without the original inventor’s permission.

India is a part of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which means that people who want to get foreign rights can do so. Filing the application results in the issuance of concurrent protection in multiple countries that are members of the PCT.

4. The Design Act, 2000 (“Design Act”)

As per the Designs Act’s section 2(d), the term ‘design’ refers to properties like shape, configuration, pattern, ornaments, line, or colour composition that are observable and applied to any two- or three-dimensional object using industrial processes, mechanical labour, manual labour,  or chemical means.

To register an industrial design, send an application to the Controller-General of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks. No prior fabrication or replication of the design is required for registration; (b) the design must remain unpublished to the Indian or global public; and (c) it must be easily identifiable from other recognisable designs.

When the owner registers, they are covered for ten years. One may acquire an extension that grants an extra five years by applying.

5. The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (“GI Act”)

Because of their Indian roots, several things have become more popular there. One example of this is “Darjeeling tea”. Its provenance, the skill of Darjeeling’s tea farmers, and the regional environment all add to its uniqueness and popularity. Other examples, such as Basmati rice and Banarsi saree, are likewise connected to their respective homelands.

The term “Geographic Indication” describes an indicator that uses a specific area, location, or locale as its point of origin or production to differentiate manufactured, natural, or agricultural items. This identity is based on traits, reputations, or attributes that are inherently linked to a person’s place of origin. The GI Act covers manufactured goods, foodstuffs, natural items, and agricultural products.

To register a product under the GI Act, you must submit a declaration outlining the quality, qualities, and reputational link between the geographical indicator and the origin. Provide details on the commodities class, the look of the geographical indicator, and a cartographic depiction of the region, nation, or territory where the commodity is located.

You can protect a regional sign for ten (10) years after you first register it. After the first period expires, there is also an option to renew the registration and get extra protection for a further ten years.

6. The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act, 2001 (“Plant Varieties Act”)

The 2007 Indian Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act seeks to protect plant varieties, protect Indian farmers’ rights, and encourage the creation of new plant varieties.

Members of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) are committed to preserving specific groups of plants.

Breeders, farmers, and other authorised individuals may apply to register unique plant varieties under the Plant Types Act. A plant type must not be sold when filing to be considered new. A protected variety is unique if it has at least one trait that sets it apart from other protected varieties. For something to be regular, all of its important parts must be the same. Stability means that the basic traits don’t change after repeated spread.

Refreshing a plant variety protection registry may extend its validity by nine (9) years for plants and trees and six (6) years for grains.

7. The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout- Design Act, 2000 (“SICLD Act”)

“Semiconductor integrated circuit” is a device that makes transistors and other circuitry parts out of semiconductor material. These parts make it possible for electronic circuitry processes to happen.

All layout designs that meet the SICLD Act’s standards for registration must be unique, not used for business purposes in India or any other convention country, and fundamentally different from other registered layout designs. Within the boundaries of the applicant’s primary place of business, the Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Registry-Registrar must receive a written application for design layout registration.

In addition, registered layout designs have ten (10) years of legal protection.

Purpose of Intellectual Property Law

Laws about intellectual property (IP) safeguard the rights of inventors and producers. Such laws provide the foundation for intellectual property ownership, use, and revenue generation in India. 

These regulations assist many Indian stakeholders in many ways:

  • Creators and innovators: Intellectual property rules provide them exclusive rights, ensuring that they may profit from their work and prevent unauthorised use.
  • Businesses and investors: These regulations incentivize companies and investors to engage in innovation and allocate resources towards developing new products and services, as they prioritise safeguarding their financial gains and capital investments.
  • Customers: Safeguarding intellectual property rights fosters innovation and enhances the quality of products and services by promoting competition and technological progress. As a result, consumers ultimately reap the advantages.
  • Society and Economy: By encouraging innovation and creativity, intellectual property laws have a major positive impact on both social progress and economic growth. They also support the preservation of traditional knowledge and cultural manifestations, both of which are essential to cultural heritage.


India’s intellectual property landscape has changed for the better and become more robust. By fostering trade, investment, R&D, and technology transfer, these changes aim to protect the interests of many stakeholders. Legal protections make it easier for ideas to become financial assets for people and companies, encouraging growth and success. Establishing a strong and fair intellectual property system that encourages creativity and inventiveness while considering the interests of all parties concerned is essential, given India’s continued ascent in the global economy.


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