Let’s not Overstretch the Law

The laws of patent, trademark and copyright vary from country to country. The laws and legal rights / obligations arising from them, therefore, differ in various parts of the globe. There are, however, some internationally accepted common norms under which we can say the legalities, more of an intellectual property rights than anything else, associated with these terminologies are sought to be administered, protected and differentiated against :

1. Patent – pertain to an exclusive right of ownership related to a tangible or an intangible property (e.g., a theory, a machine, a specialist computer software, etc.)

2. Trademark – relates more to branding of the same item by various owners / dealers (e.g., tea leaves marketed under trade-names Lipton, Brooke Bond, Tata, etc.)

3. Copyright – pertains to intellectual property, publications, computer software, domain-name,etc. (e.g., the film Slumdog Millionaire, the software MS Excel)

The laws of patent, trade marks and copy rights, as applicable in different parts of the world, may envisage, though in varying degrees, that the owners/authors/proprietors do take a legally acceptable predominance of their rights by registering the respective item within the respective national or international bodies of appropriate geographical jursidiction and within specified categories of intellectual property, scientific or other invention or publication, as the case may be.

Surprisingly in contradistinction to this legal position, it is often observed in actual practice that the laws of patent, trademark and/or copyright are overstretched beyond their allowable and sensible interpretations. I have often been wonderstruck, for instance, by some Domain Registrars declining registration of a hitherto unused domain-name on the basis that it infringes someone else’s trade mark or copyright.

Assume that ABCXYZ is an MNC producing and marketing electrical goods worldwide. To register a domain-name as ABCXYZ.Com is, in my opinion, open to any one else in the world as much as to ABCXYZ company – for the simple reason that the domain-name by itself does not necessarily link itself to electrical goods, in respect of which the company has a patent or trade-mark, of course with due regard to geographical limitations if any, pertaining to those goods.

Let’s, therefore, be clear on where lines are to be drawn – as regards the applicability or otherwise of legal rights associated with Patent, Trade Mark and Copyright, rather than get confused by whimsical generalization and / or untenable interpretation!

The opinion expressed in this article are those of the author only and is best cross-checked for legal acceptance by anyone intending to act thereunder.