Ostensible Copyright Protection and Patent for ‘Ideas’- How far Legible?
This content is researched and drafted by Shivansh Soni, IIIrd Year student at Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur
For any invention or literary work to be brought to work, an idea, which is defined as a “thought or suggestion to a possible course of action”, is the first pre-requisite. This is the origin of any invention to be brought into action, however, within the contours of law, this could be seen as something which possesses no legal stance within itself. The Intellectual Property Rights, which inherently inculcate all the legal protections with respect to any intellectual creation of any person, nowhere describe thought as a subject of protection, the possible reason to which can be that ideas are abstract concepts. No legal exclusive right follows from a mere thought or idea rendering it to be monetarily invaluable. In this furtherance, the question which this article embarks upon is that, if at all an idea or thought is so unique and establishes the premise of the invention or literary work(as is protected by the IP Laws), would that be considered at par with an invention and be given protection under any law.
Interface of Intellectual Property Rights and Ideas
- Copyrights – As already known, copyright is a protection given to the works of the creators, the very premise of which is ideas. This is protection against replication or reproduction of the tangible work originally done by an author. The essence of copyright law is to protect the free flow of thought, which in turn could be attributed to the fact that the thought could not be protected under the law as it would simply thwart the free flow and negate the basic principle of invention and creativity. In this furtherance, the closest Indian Judiciary has been is in the case of RG Anand Deluxe Films, in which the plaintiff alleged the defendant to have copied the script by presenting a film which is primarily based on the script of the plaintiff. The Supreme Court, in this case, held that the movie cannot be protected in terms of copyright, by giving reasons as to the ideas being the same but the manner in which they presented the scripts were different and this difference was legible enough to be considered a unique subject which cannot be said to have infringed the copyrights of the plaintiffs. Another case on the same line is Mansoob Haider v. Yashraj Films, under which the issue of copyrighting an idea was extensively debated and the court in the case penned that, “The residue left behind after filtering out dissimilarities is the idea which is not copyrightable and similarity of ideas does not lead to copyright infringement.”
- Patents– When talking about the patentability of ideas, what primarily needs to be looked at is the Idea and Invention analogy, e. origin is the idea, followed by an invention which in turn is followed by the protection. As already mentioned earlier, prima facie, no protection as such could be attributed to an idea. Patent for that matter could be defined as a protection against replication of an invention by means of unauthorized sale, usage, etc. Patents are significant to acknowledge the monopolistic rights of the inventor, therefore, in light of the definitions as it suggests, that an idea cannot be protected by a patent as the basic purpose of it is to get to a strand which “is concrete enough to be more than what the law would call a mere idea as ideas are valuable because they are a necessary part of the innovation journey, but it is not the idea in and of itself that creates monetary value, rather the valuable proposition inventors provide to those ideas for creating or licensing inventions”.
- Trade Secrets- Owing to the inefficacies in the Copyright and Patent Laws, a new concept to protect the originality of an idea could be seen to be developing through Trade Secret, an aspect which tends more towards protecting the commercial interest of an individual entity. Any trade secret is defined as “any valuable information that is not publicly known and of which the owner has taken reasonable steps to maintain secrecy.” For upholding any trade secret to be legally valid, an affirmative action with respect to maintaining the secrecy of that particular befitting information is a mandate. Trade secrets, however, do not protect the ideas which can be readily established through reverse engineering or inventions which can, either way, be created independently.
The answer to the question which this article sought to address would be in the negative and an idea, just as is it, cannot be protected. The repercussion of such protection may be unprecedented for it is characterized as being abstract. Secondly, ideas may either be difficult or cannot be proved to exist, but inventions can.
In furtherance of the issues and arguments as mentioned above, we can conclude that at no subsequent stage within India’s legal framework can ideas be protected, and if at all they are protected, it would result in legal ramifications. The Trade Secrets or the concept of secrecy of ideas involved in business regulation is though at the nascent stage of development in the IP laws yet should be taken into account for better protection of the unique business ideas. These intertwined concepts of intellectual property rights should be untangled and be given specific attention with emphasis on understanding how predominant laws on trade secrets of other nations can be embedded within the Indian Legal Framework.
 Gene Quin, Protecting an Idea: Can Ideas Be Patented or Protected? (Nov 17, 2018), https://www.ipwatchdog .com/2018/11/17/protecting-idea-can-ideas-be-patented/id=103389/.(Last Visited 17/08/2020).
 Shubhank Suman, ‘The Conundrum of Protection of Idea vis-a vis Copyrights and Patents’, The IP Site, (June 17, 2020), http://blog.ciprnuals.in/2020/06/the-conundrum-of-protection-of-idea-vis-a-vis-with-copyright-and -patent/ (Last Visited 18/08/2020).
 2(f) of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957.
 Senthil Kumar, Idea-Expression Dichotomy Under Copyright Law, (Oct 19, 2016), https://www.mondaq.com/i ndia/copyright/536650/idea-expression-dichotomy-under-copyright-law (Last Visited 19/08/2020).
 RG Anand v. Deluxe Films, AIR 1978 SC 1613.
 Mansoob Haider v. Yashraj Films Pvt Ltd & Ors, 219/2014, Bombay HC.
 Vijay Pal Dalmia, Patents Law in India – Everything You Must Know, (Dec 18, 2017), https://www.mondaq.co m/india/patent/656402/patents-law-in-india–everything-you-must-know.
 Pratibha Ahirwar, What to Choose Between Trade Secrets and Patents, (Feb 21, 2019), https://www.mondaq.c om/india/trade-secrets/783558/what-to-choose-between-trade-secrets-and-patents.