Intellectual Property Rights Protection In The Digital Age


Intellectual property refers to the ownership of intangible goods. This includes ideas, designs, symbols, writings and creations. It also refers to digital media such as audio and video clips that can be downloaded online. Since intellectual property is intangible, if it is stolen, it may be difficult to recover. Say for example, a person comes up with a great idea for a new invention. Copyright originated in an age where the expression of the intellectual product in physical form, such as a book. Today the situation is changing, in this information age where digital information can be easily copied at minimal cost this natural physical limitation to unauthorized copying is removed. It is therefore time to reconsider the principle of the copyright model. The purpose of copyright law is to balance the rights of copyright holders and users. Existing copyright law is applicable in the digital age also. Libraries pay for information to deliver it to their communities. As more and more information become available in digital format, care must be taken by libraries to ensure that public can enjoy the same access rights as with printed information. This paper deals with scope and coverage of various concepts connected with IPR, such as intellectual product, patents, copyright, designs, trademarks, computer software, databases, Internet and cyber laws. Copyright issues associated with digital / electronic information, protection of digital right.

Keywords: Intellectual Property, Copy Right, Patent, Trademarks, Breeders Right, Cryptography


The word intellect originates from the root “intellectus” in Latin which means the power of knowing as distinguished from the power to feel.  The legal protections given to people or organisations for their discoveries or creations are known as intellectual property rights (IPRs). By offering incentives and rewards to inventors, artists, and creators, these rights are crucial in fostering innovation, creativity, and economic progress. By giving exclusive rights to the creators, inventors, or owners, intellectual property laws aim to promote innovation and creativity.

These rights provide people the ability to be in charge of and make money from their inventions, encouraging investment, study, and advancement. IPRs also encourage fair competition, safeguard customers against fake or subpar products, and promote cultural variety and economic prosperity. However, the administration and enforcement of intellectual property rights now face further difficulties due to the digital era. The creation of new tactics and technology to safeguard IPRs in the digital sphere has been made necessary by problems like online piracy, copyright violations, and the simplicity of duplicating and distributing digital information. In general, intellectual property rights are essential for promoting innovation, creativity, and monetary advancement. They maintain a careful balance between encouraging information availability and cross-cultural interaction while rewarding innovators and producers. To meet the demands and potential of the digital era, it is crucial to modify and improve intellectual property laws and practises as technology develops.

Unprecedented technological developments brought forth by the digital era have changed the way we produce, use, and exchange knowledge. The administration and preservation of intellectual property rights are now more difficult and important than ever due to these quick developments. We will explore the new vistas that have opened up in this dynamic period as we delve into the changing environment of intellectual property rights in the digital age. Since they are become owner of the physical component of the product and can do the following with it:

  • They can read the book and transfer the intellectual component of the intellectual product into their head.
  •  They are allowed fair use to the intellectual product such as quoting short sections of it.
  •  Destroy the book.
  •  Write over the page
  •  Under the first scale rule they can lend the book or sell it to another consumer


The research conducted is doctrinal in nature with the information completely taken from secondary sources. In the digital age, safeguarding intellectual property (IP) requires a multifaceted strategy. Legal frameworks form the foundation, necessitating a thorough understanding and utilization of existing IP laws. Registration of patents, trademarks, and copyrights is paramount for establishing legal ownership. Technological tools play a pivotal role, with Digital Rights Management (DRM) and encryption offering digital content control and data protection. Watermarking further discourages unauthorized use by embedding invisible markers. Contracts and licensing agreements should be meticulously crafted to delineate rights and restrictions. Regular audits and cybersecurity measures fortify defenses against breaches. Continuous monitoring and enforcement, aided by collaboration with authorities, are vital to combat infringement. Education and awareness initiatives foster a culture of respect for IP rights, creating a comprehensive approach for effective protection in the dynamic digital landscape. Additionally, proactive measures such as the implementation of cybersecurity protocols serve as a frontline defense against data breaches and theft, reinforcing the security of valuable digital assets. Regular audits of digital content and platforms help identify potential infringements promptly, allowing for swift corrective action. Collaboration with law enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies enhances the efficacy of enforcement efforts, creating a unified front against intellectual property violations. Education and awareness initiatives extend beyond internal stakeholders to include external partners, suppliers, and customers, cultivating a broader understanding of the importance of respecting and upholding intellectual property rights. This holistic approach, integrating legal, technological, and educational components, is essential for navigating the complex landscape of intellectual property protection in the digital age.[1]


Intellectual Property Rights Protection in the digital age has been a subject of extensive scholarly inquiry, reflecting the complex intersection of technology, law, economics, and ethics. A myriad of literature delves into the challenges posed by digitization, emphasizing issues like the ease of reproduction and distribution leading to rampant piracy, the role of evolving technology in both facilitating infringement and providing avenues for protection, the necessity of reformed legal frameworks to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape, and the global implications on innovation and creativity. Authors often debate the effectiveness of various mechanisms such as copyright law, digital rights management, and technological solutions while exploring the balance between incentivizing innovation through IP rights and ensuring access to knowledge for societal benefit. Moreover, discussions frequently center around the ethical considerations in the enforcement of these rights, examining the tension between safeguarding IP and preserving the public’s interest in a digital era marked by interconnectedness and information sharing.


1. It is a form of intangible property.

2. It’s existence distinct from the physical articles or goods which contain the rights.

 3. In some cases the rights are capable of existence and enforcement with no tangible form.

4. The various rights might subsist in the same things. For example, a document might be subject to patent, design rights and trademarks. A pictorial trademark might also be subject to copyright. 


“Intellectual property” consists broadly of two main categories:  (a) Industrial property and (b) Copyright.  Industrial property consists of rights relating to inventions, trade marks, industrial designs and geographical indications.  Copyright  protects  rights  related  to  creation  of  human  mind  in  the  fields  of  literature, scientific,  music,  art  and  audio-visual  works  etc.  The  basic  rights  of  ownership  of intellectual property are known as “intellectual property rights” (IPR), which  are  primarily derived from legislation concerning patents, designs, copyrights and trade marks.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organizations, there are seven categories of Intellectual Property Rights: 

 i) Copyright and Related Rights

 ii) Trade Marks, Trade names and Service marks 

iii) Geographical Indications 

iv) Industrial Designs

 v) Patents

 vi) Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits

 vii) Undisclosed Information 

1. Copy Right

Copyright laws  grant authors,  artists and  other creators  protection for their  literary  and artistic works  (e.g. books, movies, music, paintings, photographs, and software) and give a copyright holder the exclusive right to control reproduction or adaptation of such works for a certain period of time i.e. life of the author plus several decades.

Works covered under copy rights:

The subject matter of copy right can be enumerated as follows:

  • Artistic work: 1) It means a painting, a  sculpture, a  drawing 2) an engraving or a photograph 3) a work of architecture and any other work of artistic craftsmanship.
  • Literary work: It includes computer programmes, tables and compilations including computer databases.
  •  Musical work: It means a work consisting of music and  any graphical notation of such work.
  • Dramatic  work:  It  includes  any  piece  of  recitation,  choreographic  work  or entertainment in dumb show.
  • Cinematography film: It means any work of visual recording.
  •  Sound recording: It means a recording of sounds.

Six Rights of Copyright:

  • The Right to Copy: If one creates something artistic that is fixed in some medium, only that person who holds the copyright may make a copy of the thing created.
  • The Right to prepare Derivative works: A derivative work is a movie made from a book or video game based on a popular movie.
  • The Right to Distribute Copies: In the digital world distributing copies  would  be posting material on the Internet.
  •  The Right to Perform Works Publicly: When a play is performed for an audience, it is publicly performed. If a copyright holder allows a play to be performed by others, he/she is entitled to a royalty fee and control over how the work is performed.
  •  The Right of Public Performance of Sound  Recording by means  of Digital Audio Transmission 
  •  The Right to Display Works Publicly: In an  educational institute, if an instructor shows a copy of a painting in an art class, it is treated as fair use. In a distance –learning course, if the painting placed on a website that is accessible to everybody in the world, making it a public display and not exclusively an educational display in a classroom. If the painting appears on a website that was designed for the class, it may be used  if the website is protected such a way as to  allow access  only to members of the class[2].

2. Patents:

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention –a product or process that provides a new way of doing something or that offers a new technical solution to a problem. A patent provides protection to patent owners for their inventions. Protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20  years. A patent can be three types: utility patents (which are divided into three categories: mechanical, electrical and chemical), design patents and plant patents. Utility patents are those inventions that are normally thought of as machines, such as a cell phone or an MP3 player. Design patents are granted to the design of a functional thing. A plant patent is granted on a new type of plant that is created by human intervention.

3. Trademarks :

Trade  marks are  signs or  symbols i.e.  logo and  names registered  by a  manufacturer or merchant to identify goods and services. Protection is usually granted for ten years and is renewal as long as the trade marks continue to be used. Trademarks can be various types. A trademark may be a brand name, trade dress, service mark, certification mark or collective mark. For example, a brand name would be Coca-Cola; a trade dress would be the shape of the Coca-Cola  bottle;  a collective  mark  could  be  the  CPA  lettering  after  an  accountant‟s name that designates an association such as Certified Public Accountants.

4.    Integrated circuits :

Layout design (topography) of integrated circuits is a relatively new area in IP which has appeared with computer technology. The programming instructions on a computer chip are implemented through a circuitry printed on semiconductor layers. The design of circuitry on the chip requires great investment of knowledge, skills and capital and these needs to be protected as IP.  

5.     Breeder’s right :

A plant breeder‟s right  is  a  form  of  intellectual  property right granted to breeders of new plant  varieties.  Breeders  of  new  plant  varieties  are  granted  plant  breeders‟  rights  for protection of their varieties against exploitation without their permission. A plant breeder‟s right is granted for 25 years in the case of vines and trees, and for 20  years in all other cases.

  6.       Trade secrets :

 A trade secret (which is either equated with, or a subset of, “confidential information”) is secret,  non-public  information  concerning  the  commercial  practices  or  proprietary knowledge of  a business,  public disclosure  of which  may sometimes  be illegal. Unlike patents, trade sectors are protected as long as the information is kept secret. 

7.  Geographical indications :

A geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and  possess  qualities  or  a  reputation  due  to  that  place  of  origin.  Most  commonly  a geographical  indication  consists  of  the  name  of  the  place  of  origin  of  the  goods. Geographical indications  may be  used  for a  wide variety  of agricultural  products. For example Kolhapuri chappals from Kolhapur, India 

8.      Utility models :

 This concept originated in U. S. patent law. A utility model is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which allows the right holder to prevent others from commercially using the protected invention, without his authorization, for a limited period of time. Patent law in India does  not provide  any registration of utility model. For example, duplicate key making machine. 

 9.      Industrial Designs :

 An industrial design right is an intellectual property right that protects the visual design of an objects. It is concerned with three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article, or two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color. Industrial design is  applied to a wide variety of products.  From watches, jewelers, luxury items to industrial and medical  implements;  from  house  ware,  furniture,  electrical  appliances  to  vehicles  and artichitectural structures.  In India, the Indian Design  Act, 1911 has been replaced  by the Design Act, 2000. The  term for  a design  is 10  years from  the date  of registration. This period can be extended by 5 years if application is made before the expiry of 10 years.


 In  the digital  age the  issue  of  privacy is  an  important subject  where unauthorized  data sharing, data  integration, unethical data utilization and unauthorized  public disclosure are the major areas of concern. The major issues are to be considered as follows:

 1.  Is  digitization  to  be  considered  as  similar to  reproduction,  for  example  using Xerox machine?

 2.  Is digitization a creative activity such as translation from one language to another?

3. Can transmission of digitized documents through Internet be considered as commercial distribution or public communication similar to broadcasting?

4. Can  we consider  database  as a special collected  work that should be protected  by the copyright law?

 5. What can be considered as fair use in the Internet environment?

 6. What are the concerns of the library community?

7. In the digital context if access restricted by the copyright owner, how could the public exercise fair use with those work?

The above issues are specific to the library.  The libraries have allowed their users to read a document, to browse through the whole collection; to search through the library catalogue; to supply Xerox copy for  research and education purpose; to procure photocopies of articles from  other  libraries  or  clearing  centers;  to  widely  distribute  the  re-produced  copies  of documents for public awareness and to provide inter library loan service. Whether all these activities will continue in the digital age? If digitization is considered as reproduction, it is clear that  in digitization  the initial work is  merely changed into the digital form  and the process of changing is accomplished by a machine, without any creativity. If it is considered as a translation from one language to another, the digitization is also a change from natural human language in  to machine  language.   However in  digitization, there is no creativity involved  and it  could  be considered  as  a similar activity  to reprography.  The copyright protects only creative works. Simply transformation  in  to  the digital form of an original document cannot be considered as creative. The transmission of information on Internet can be considered similar to broadcasting; hence copyright law cannot be applied.

Ways for Protection of Digital / Intellectual Property:  

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies (also known as Electronic Rights Management  Systems)  ensure  copyright  through  identifying  and  protecting  the  content, controlling access of the work, protecting the integrity of the work and ensuring payment for the  access.   DRM technologies  prevent illegal  users  in  accessing the  content[3].  Access  is protected  through  user ID  and  password, licensing  agreements.  Another  way to  protect digital content is through Technical Protection Measures (TPM). These technologies allow publishing companies in securing and protecting content such as music, text and video from unauthorized use. If an author wishes to collect fee for use of his or her work, then DRM technology can be used. The TPM and DRM technologies are increasingly employed to sell and distribute content over the Internet.  


Cryptography is the oldest mechanism employed to ensure security and privacy of information over networks. This involves scrambling (or encryption) of the information to render it  unreadable or  not understandable  language, which  only the legitimate  user  can unscramble (or decrypt). However cryptography protects the  work during transmission or distribution only. After the work is decrypted, it does not provide any protection.    

Digital Watermark Technology:

A digital watermark is a digital signal or pattern inserted into a digital document. It is similar to the electronic on-screen logo used by TV channels. A unique identifier is used to identify  the  work. The  message might  contain information  regarding  ownership, sender, recipient etc or information about copyright permission. The system consists of a watermark generator, embedder  and a watermark detector decoder. The legal user  can remove these watermarks with  a predetermined algorithm. The  watermarking technology is extensively used in protecting multimedia works. 

Digital Signature Technology:

Digital  signature  includes  identity  of  the  sender  and/or  receiver,  date,  time, any unique code etc. This information can be added to digital products. This digitally marks and binds  a  software  product  for  transferring  to  a  specified  customer.  Digitally  signed fingerprints guarantee document authenticity and prevent illegal copying.  

Electronic Marking:

 In this technique, the system automatically generates a unique mark that is tagged to each  of the  document copies. This  technique is  used to  protect copyright  as  well as  in electronic publishing where documents are printed, copied or faxed. 


In navigating the complexities of intellectual property rights protection in the digital age, organizations should adopt a proactive and multifaceted approach. This involves staying informed about the dynamic landscape of intellectual property laws, leveraging robust Digital Rights Management systems, and implementing encryption techniques to secure sensitive data. Employing discreet watermarking in digital assets serves as a deterrent against unauthorized use, while regular policy updates and clear contractual definitions minimize ambiguity and potential disputes. Employee education and awareness programs are crucial for instilling a culture of compliance within the organization. Utilizing monitoring tools and exploring blockchain technology can enhance tracking and transparency. Collaboration with industry peers, public awareness campaigns, and participation in forums contribute to a collective effort in safeguarding intellectual property. Additionally, investing in employee loyalty and regularly assessing and updating security measures further fortify an organization’s resilience against evolving threats in the digital landscape.


Protecting intellectual property in the digital age is part of business strategy, particularly in Vietnam’s thriving digital economy. By understanding the challenges posed by the digital landscape and implementing appropriate measures, businesses can safeguard their creations effectively. Registering copyrights, trademarks, and patents, along with proactive trade secret protection, form the foundation of a comprehensive IP protection strategy. Furthermore, taking decisive action against digital piracy through enforcement measures is crucial. By navigating these challenges prudently, businesses can thrive in the digital age while preserving and protecting their valuable intellectual property..




[1] Bentley, Nicholas (2004). Distributed Intellectual Property Rights Available at  (Accessed on 05-01-13) 

[2]  Malwad, N. M and Anjanappa, M. “IPR in digital environment: issues of concern to library community” Available at (Accessed on 01-02-13) 

[3] Paul, S. S.  (A) Basic understanding of intellectual property. Kolkata: Diamond, 2003.