Abg. Martha Landívar.

As a well-deserved tribute to the commemoration of World Intellectual Property Day, I am writing this article, which will deal mainly with the evolution of copyright and the evolution of patents.

Intellectual Property comprises several aspects of protection of the creations of the human intellect. Thus, to begin with, we have Copyrights and Related Rights, the former protect the authors of artistic, literary, scientific, educational and computer works, as well as databases; the latter protect the rights of artists, interpreters and performers, phonogram producers and broadcasting organizations. In another field of protection, Industrial Property Rights grant protection to inventions through patents, industrial designs, trademarks, utility models, new plant varieties and geographical indications.

Thus, Intellectual Property is recognized as the most effective way to protect inventions and, at the same time, the means by which its creator obtains the exclusivity of its exploitation in exchange for giving it publicity, which then becomes part of the worldwide technological information pool.

Referring to the evolution of Copyrights. We will say that, in Greece and Rome, there was nothing similar to copyright protection. There was only a rudimentary publishing industry, based on the manual transcriptions of slaves, concerning some important texts. There were no rules against plagiarism, nor legal formulas of retribution to the author.

In the High Middle Ages, the production of these texts was limited to monasteries, with a very limited production. It was not until the middle of the 12th century, with the founding of universities, that the demand for texts grew notably, multiplying the number of copies produced. In the Middle Ages, the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg totally changed the way texts were produced and distributed. It was then that cultural production began to generate wealth. This gave rise to the privilege granted to the publisher and not to the author.

Its infringement was punished with the confiscation of the works and the printing press. From that point the controversy arose as to whether or not the author had to have the right over his work, or whether only the publisher had the right over the work. Then, several laws began to be passed in different countries that gave some protection to the author of the work, but gave greater value to the public interest than to the interests and rights of the author.

Since then, they have had to adapt to technological and social developments. In this adaptation, European countries, as well as the United States of America, considered of vital importance the need to have clear provisions for the protection of the author.

Thus, in 1886, the Berne Convention was signed, which is still in force today, and whose basic principles are as follows:

  • The union of the majority of the world's countries
  • Reciprocity of protection between countries
  • Recognition of the Author's Exclusive Rights of authorization and the Moral Rights of the Author.

This treaty, which is still in force, served as the basis for the formulation of copyright laws around the world.

Regarding the evolution of Industrial Property, we will refer to the evolution of patents, one of the most important figures in this area, and a fundamental part of Intellectual Property Law.

Between the tenth and eleventh centuries of our era, there were inventions that in some way changed the history of the old world. Several of them had to do with the horse. Thus, the collar that suffocated this animal was replaced by a more rigid one that allowed it to make strength. Almost all instruments were then made of iron. Other inventions were made, which perhaps today would seem to be of little importance, but which at that time constituted a great advance. As a result of the Feudal Revolution, agricultural production increased and cities flourished. The peasants concentrated in the urban centers, specializing in trades, exploiting the inventions already created.

In the Renaissance, names like Leonardo da Vinci emerged, who carried out several inventions in mechanics, botany, anatomy, biology (he wrote his inventions from right to left so that his works would not be copied). At this stage the inventions and procedures belonged to the guild and these were jealously guarded in secret.

Regarding Industrial Property, I will refer to one of the most important figures in this field, which are patents.

Between the X and XI centuries, inventions were born that changed, in some way, the history of the old continent. Among them, several had to do with the horse, with reference to the treatment of this animal, the soft collar that suffocated him was substituted by another more rigid one that allowed him to make force. Almost all the instruments were made of iron among other inventions that today would seem to be of little importance, but that then constituted great advances for the development of humanity. As a result of the Feudal Technical Revolution, which increased agricultural production, trade was reborn and cities flourished. The peasants concentrated in the urban centers, using the inventions already created.

The monarchs granted privileges of administration of a land or rent as a good incentive to continue inventing, a cash prize or that the State provided the necessary means to exploit the invention. From then on, laws and treaties were elaborated in order to protect inventions and their inventors.

The tendency to consider the inventor and his inherent rights as the center of the patent system develops from the 17th century onwards, contributing to it the Independence of the United States and the French Revolution. In this context, patents were the means to encourage the technological development of the country granting them with the introduction of modern techniques that had to be exploited in the national territory. However, the extraordinary improvement of transport and communications boosted the internationalization of technological exchanges. In view of this reality, it became necessary to formulate modern laws and international treaties. Thus, the Paris Convention of 1883 clearly regulates the rights of inventors, the time of protection of these inventions, a territorial protection with prerogatives for foreigners.

Already in the 20th century, we have the Patent Cooperation Treaty (P.C.T), a treaty that aims to simplify in an efficient and economical way, from the point of view of the users of the Patent system and the offices in charge of administering it. It has become a form or procedure to be followed to apply for a patent in several countries.

Another important treaty in the field of Intellectual Property, which includes rules on Patents, is the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), which originated in the World Trade Organization at the end of the Uruguay Round. This treaty, along with others, had to be ratified by the member states and entailed the modification of the internal regulations of each signatory country. Thus, several Latin American countries reformed their Intellectual Property regulations due to pressure mainly from the United States of America, with respect to those countries that did not have protection in accordance with the standards required by the World Trade Organization.

From all the above, I conclude by highlighting the transcendental importance that Intellectual Property has had and has today, in everything that refers to the technological advancement of the whole world. Thanks to it, to the protection and incentive it provides, we have unstoppable scientific progress. This fact demonstrates its vital impact on the economic development of the people, thus becoming a valid agent for business growth worldwide.