Last night’s Radio 4 The Bottom Line business show had an interesting discussion on the topic of intellectual property infringement and corporate theft.
The programme traced the history of IP ‘theft’ all the way back to the days of Jesuit missionaries attempting to discover the secrets of Chinese porcelain, through French efforts to acquire the blueprints for the Spinning Jenny, all the way up to modern issues of data theft and cybercrime. The basic problem of IP infringement has been around for a long time, but the exact forms it takes and the strategies needed to tackle it are constantly evolving. IP owners need to stay one step ahead in order to protect their assets from copycats.
The programme featured an inventor, an IP lawyer, and a former investigator turned novelist, who each brought their own perspectives. The inventor strongly advocated the merits of obtaining strong protection for your IP right from the outset, based on her experience of using her rights to prevent a larger competitor profiting from her invention. The IP lawyer talked about the ways in which disputes can be resolved and IP rights enforced without the need to resort to potentially costly court proceedings. The investigator’s experience of the murky world of counterfeiting highlighted that IP crime is not just a problem for rights owners, but also has wider social implications, often being connected to serious organised crime.
The programme highlighted that whilst patent rights are important for protecting new inventions, trade marks and design right are also crucial ways of protecting your IP against copycats and free-riders.