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  • Writer's pictureRithwika Rarish

Intellectual Property Rights in the Age of Digitalisation

Through this blog, the author wishes to throw light on the origin of the IPR Regime and the establishment of WIPO and how they were established to fulfil the needs of the age of industrialisation and the need for change so that the needs of the present age, i.e., the age of digitisation is catered.

The origin of the international IP regime was the Paris Convention for the protection of industrial property and inventions in 1883. Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works was agreed upon in 1886 to give creators the right to control and receive payment for their creative works on an international level. With the adoption of the Madrid Agreement, the first global IP filing service was launched in 1891: the Madrid System for the international registration of marks. Eventually, in 1893, the United International Bureau for the Protection of Intellectual Property was constituted. Their organisation was a common platform for administering the Paris and the Berne Conventions. It was popularly known for its French acronym BIPRI. In 1970, BIPRI turned into the World Intellectual Property Organization, referred to as WIPO. The World Intellectual Property Organization was established through a convention signed in the year 1967. In 1974, The WIPO became part of the United Nations as a specialised agency to promote intellectual activities, stimulate creativity, and facilitate technology transfer for accelerating economic development worldwide. Presently, the WIPO has 193 member states. It administers 26 treaties, including the WIPO convention.

When we look at the origin of the IPR Regime or the establishment of WIPO, the international organisation for the IPR Regime, we understand that both were to cater to the needs in the age of Industrialisation. More robust systems and protections have been developed with time. What we are missing fundamentally here during this development is that we are still trying to work through what was designed for a different purpose. During this age of digitisation, when the needs and ways of working are different from the age of Industrialisation, we need to develop a system that suits the current scenario. Even the top organisation on the IPR, i.e. WIPO, is still carrying out the objectives set during the industrialisation.

There was a hope from WIPO, from whom the change shall come to have a quick adoption when they launched the WIPO Proof service. This service provided a date- and time-stamped digital fingerprint of any file, proving its existence at a specific time. The WIPO PROOF service was launched as a program by WIPO in 2020 but was soon terminated on January 31, 2022, due to budget restrictions. This service was a way in which the IPR needs of the digital global economy were catered to a large extent quickly and efficiently using digital technology without trying to rewrite the overall system in place through treaties and legislations. Although WIPO Proof was unfortunately discontinued, even when it was in existence, there were evident problems of accessibility and affordability even for the cream of the society. When we bring a tool for change, especially for it to be adopted and cater to the mass, so that community at large benefits, it should not be limited to a few.

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