Anderson (1998) defines intellectual property as the ideas of people which are then used in order to create a lot of products and so are taken as their “products” – nobody could use them in order to gain their own profit from them or even use it to pattern their own products, modify them and use it to gain more customers in their respective line of business. These products could be anything, such as music, art, literature, electronics, even set marketing plans of how they marketed the products themselves, and many others. Securing intellectual property means that the laws that were put up in order to protect them ensure that these products could be well taken care of and the money generated from these products could be used in order to improve them, for the use of society. These laws, however, differ from state to state, and even from country to country. Deveraux, Lawrence and Watkins (2006) add that intellectual property could also mean as data which then has a set value in the business it is at, in the society where it is being or is about to be sold. Because of this said value, economists find it very important to protect intellectual property, because of the fact that free markets do not simply generate enough “stimuli” in order to foster new intellectual innovations for the person responsible for the said product. He or she alone would then be unable to harness the full potential his or her product could bring to the market.
The government is then supposed to take care of these inventors by giving them support through financial and legal means, such as giving subsidies, and the creation of policies that were made in order to protect them, like short-term monopolies that could be used to generate enough finances to support the creation of knowledge for the said products. There are other legal means to protect intellectual property, policies that allow for gaining its patents, trademarks, as well as the copyrights of those products.
Intellectual property could then be seen as something that is considered relatively stable, through the many different senses of the term. However, when it comes to determining intellectual property, a lot of things become a bit more blurred. Sherman and Bently (1999) illustrates this problem when it comes to the defense of such intellectual property. The problem is about what is being protected, and the overall nature of the protected intellectual property. The said laws and policies are, as they have noted, can be easily explained in legal terms, but when it comes to using it in order to decide whether or not intellectual property rights are being violated, it offers almost no help at all. Add this to the many takes on the intellectual property right “variations” that occur in different countries, as well as to delicate issues that could be or could not be categorized as something that is of course intellectually owned, like the question of whether or not adding higher life forms into the equation (Rimmer 2008).
This has even become much more of a problem just as the current trends in global markets now shift to the borderless type of dealing business with the entire world. The advent of the internet now opened endless possibilities for people around the world to deal with customers online, without having to meet them face to face. Almost anything nowadays could be sold on the internet. A new threat however is emerging from these seemingly harmless trends. This is the alarming increase of sharing files of any type to people – like movie files, music, or even books – which now draws the line between the arguments of pro-intellectual property rights advocates and those who believe in the “free for all” market encouraged by young people who download these products. Normally, people would go to book stores, buy music CDs, or buy movie DVDs from authorized dealers. People have a healthier respect for not stealing another person’s ideas through other means of personal or intellectual expression such as art, literature, and other products that are supposed to have “safeguards” like trademarks that couldn’t be copied by anyone else. Websites that support the free download of these products are said to cost the industry a lot of financial losses because people now do not get these products through legal means – they now enjoy these same products without having to pay for the “upkeep” of the business. Patents and other means of legal protection for these products are then violated. With more and more people getting drawn to the free downloads, it is understandable why there are a lot of people who are alarmed at this trend and have taken stauncher measures in order to stop it in its tracks.
Nasheri (2005) describes intellectual property crimes as being bad as crimes that harm or even kill people. Intellectual property crimes rob a person of his rights to his idea or created product, stealing them in order to profit from them, stealing from them what is rightfully theirs. What is unfortunate is that the companies nowadays are not aware of this even happening, in the manner of how it actually affects what they earn, as well as its effects on their countries’ respective economies. Another reason is that the said intellectual property theft is hardly even felt until it is recognized and then brought to attention to the wronged victims and the authorities at hand. Aside from these problems, Nasheri also points out that laws that were created usually only cover the jurisdiction of the country which created those laws, or to the territory where the said country belongs. Clearly, the only way to combat this crime is by cooperation and unity among the many different countries that are to be affected by such a threat, which generally means all countries with businesses at stake, and finances lost because of unscrupulous individuals. In the US, they have passed the Economic Espionage Act or the EEA, which is then used as a tool in order to protect the US assets from being dominated by foreign companies seeking to establish a foothold in their market. Also, the EEA could then be seen as a model for the entire world to base its own intellectual property policies from as well. However, this remains to be seen, especially in economies which are actively encouraging their own homegrown markets to be able to compete against their major competitors. It has then up to the country to either uphold its economic patriotism or foster/support international competition. Nasheri also notes that problems of insufficient policies that plague modern countries today – they either have no policies set out at all or have measures that are “ill-fitted” and were just simply added up to the current laws that the country has. If there are said anti-intellectual property theft laws in place, the country would then have to deal with the overwhelming problem of such crimes as they are rampant in other neighboring countries, which could mean that the intellectual property theft problem could come from one country, violates set anti-intellectual property theft policies in another, and supporting evidence that could be used to bolster the case could also mean that it can be found in other places as well. Lastly, there are still yet no clear procedures or set rules in how to go about intellectual property theft crimes, given choosing which different countries’ laws should be used, how court rulings would have to be carried out if the guilty party is not within the country at the time of the ruling, and which rules are to be followed when it comes to investigations that could lead them passing through several countries’ borders as well.
Intellectual property theft clearly has serious implications on the global economy as a whole, mostly because of the many problems that Nasheri has outlined. Aside from these many problems that many big corporations face, they also have to contend with the current trends of moving towards a more open and sharing society, with intellectual property rights being branded as an effort on the part of the companies to completely seize their monopolies on world markets and making sure that the small players wouldn’t be able to go against their firm hold in their respective markets. Also, there is the problem of the differences of what not or what could be put under a “brand name” such that another person would not be able to use that said product or else risk prosecution. Then there is also the problem with how much could be put under such “protective custody” of the company, which could also mean even more limitations for the small time business man trying to make it big in his own country. Finally, there is also the problem of the products that are under copyright, and then the owners of the said copyright go against people or another company who use the product in some form or another, like the case with Grokster. However, it is also seen how intellectual property rights could affect the fortunes of people who hold them. The money which are then generated from sales of their own ideas help foster the needed finances in order to enhance them further, or make new ideas based from these previous ones and improve upon them as a whole. They then help fuel the business which then nurtures them, promote these said ideas, and help in the overall “health” of the economy, if left untouched. Given the dilemma, it could only be said that the “battle” between the giants – pro-intellectual property advocates and anti-intellectual property advocates – is just beginning to heat up.
Anderson, J. (1998) Plagiarism, Copyright Violation, and Other Thefts of Intellectual Property.
Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Deveraux, C., Lawrence, R. Z. & Watkins, M. D. (2006) Case Studies In US Trade Negotiation
Vol. 1: Making The Rules. Washington DC: Peterson Institute.
Nasheri, H. (2005) Economic Espionage and Industrial Spying. Cheltenham: Cambridge
Rimmer, M. (2008) Intellectual Property and Biotechnology: Biological Inventions. Cheltenham:
Edward Elgar Publishing.
Sherman, B. & Bently, L. (1999) The Making Of Modern Intellectual Property Law. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.