Over the years, innovation has transformed how people travel in terms of safety, fuel efficiency, and environmental conservation. The path to today’s advancements in the automobile has been smooth, with one of the hindrances to innovation being intellectual property (IP) laws.
IP laws play a positive role in innovation because they offer protections to innovators, ensuring they get value for their input. However, they can stand in the way of innovation. This guide looks into the good, and the bad of IP laws and how simplifying them can help spur innovation.
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Understanding IP Laws
IP laws are laws designed to protect creators’ rights to their creations. Protectable IP rights covered under IP laws include patents, industrial design rights, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets, each covering a different aspect of creation.
Patents cover innovations, which can be a product or a process that must be novel, useful, and non-obvious. If you are interested in registering patents for your ideas, you may want to talk to an IP expert for help navigating the Canadian patenting process or head on to the CIPO’s website to learn more.
In the automobile sector, patent protections apply for unique technologies used in cars, new methods of powering cars, processes used to create new components, etc. Once granted, patent rights last for 20 years.
Industrial Design Rights
Industrial design rights, as referred to in Canadian intellectual property law, also go by the name of design patterns in other jurisdictions.
Industrial design rights cover the non-functional aspects of innovation, for example, texture shape, ornamentation, etc. In the automobile sector, design rights cover aspects such as the hood, interior, and headlight design.
Trademark and Copyrights
Trademark rights protect brand identifiers, such as brand names, logos, slogans, etc. That said, trademark protections do not have much bearing on innovation.
Copyright protections cover artistic creations such as sketches and pictures. Copyright protections apply by default to the creator. Like trademark protections, copyright protections may not have much bearing on innovation in the automobile sector.
The Good and the Bad of IP Laws
Exclusive rights to IP rights ensure that only the rights holder profits from their creations. This way, the rights holder recoups the time and resources invested in creating or inventing a product or service and profits from it.
This assurance of recouping investment encourages research and investment into innovation since car designers and manufacturers have the assurance of profiting from their investment. Where the rights holder can’t reproduce their creation on a large scale or have challenges meeting demand, they always have the choice of selling their licenses to other entities.
On the flip side, improvement in new technologies can get restricted by IP laws. Just because an entity discovers new technology doesn’t mean they have all the best ideas to improve the technology. Unfortunately, even if another entity may have a better idea, they cannot implement the ideas without infringing on the rights holders’ IP rights.
How Simplifying IP Laws Can Help Spur Innovation
The prerogative of simplifying IP laws lies with the legislative arms of governments and international intellectual property agencies such as WIPO. While it may seem like taking away from the rights holders’ rights, simplifying IP laws can help in many ways, including promoting collaboration and technology sharing, accelerating innovation, leveling the playing field for established businesses and startups, and enhancing consumer experiences.
The best approach to overcome the genuine concern of stifling innovation through the lack of exclusive rights is adopting strategies that balance the two, for example, by adopting a system that encourages and rewards technological improvements while collaborating with inventors.
Inventors can also help in spurring innovation by waiving their exclusive rights dealer like the case of Tesla, where in 2014, its CEO announced that Tesla would not file lawsuits against anyone who used Tesla technologies in good faith, a move that elicited mixed reactions from different quarters with some hailing it a great move towards spurring innovation while other felt it would devalue Tesla’s stock.