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Tan Hwee Xian

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Tan Hwee Xian
U018226J
isc10876@nus.edu.sg

Intellectual Property (IP), as broadly defined, refers to the creations of the mind:
inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images and designs used in
commerce. It can be classified into two sub-categories, namely: industrial property,
which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs and geographical
indications of source; and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works.

Since its initial introduction, IP has been widely utilized as a tool to protect the
intellectual property rights of a product or innovation. It also helps to increase the
competitiveness of companies in a variety of ways. This can be done by managing IP
effectively and using it to devise business strategies, which is actually an increasingly
critical task for entrepreneurs worldwide.

Today, many companies go through the financially-strenuous and time-consuming
process of seeking IP to protect their industrial innovations. To any technological
company, the basic and main forms of IP used are patents and trademarks. However,
some firms have actually made used of Copyright laws to be used as a means of strategic
defense against other companies.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) was re-written by Congress
with the stated intention of giving the owners of creative material, including music,
books, and films, new weapons to fight the piracy made possible by digital media. With it
comes along a provision that bars tampering with copyright protection systems by
prohibiting the sale of products designed “to circumvent a technological measure that
effectively controls access” to copyright material.

Amidst strong critics, Lexmark International – a well-known printer maker company –
has decided to use the DMCA to stifle its competitions. It is in the process of filing a
lawsuit against Sanford (N.C.) chipmaker Static Control Components, to block the sale of
the Static Control chips, which would effectively stop re-manufacturers from selling most
cartridges for Optra T-series printers. Lexmark strongly proclaims that its chip code
design, which is incorporated into the ink cartridges, is a “technological measure”
designed to prevent access to its copyrighted software.

With regards to this issue, there are two controversial views that hold. One, there is a
potential danger that all sorts of companies facing competition in parts and supplies
businesses could add technological protections, and then use DMCA as a weapon against
third-party suppliers. Two, the law should actually provide some form of protection for
these businesses so that they can innovate more and better quality goods with their
revenue and time.
However, the former view appears to be more widely accepted and recognized, rather
than the latter. As Hewlett-Packard, the dominant supplier for both the printer and toner
market fiercely believes, consumer choices should be respected. Instead of using lawsuits
to force rival competitors to cease operations, companies should work towards the goal of
inducing their customers to continue purchasing their products. And on top of that, the
Congress ought to revise and refine its existing law, to ensure that it is not being abused
by other companies.

References:
   1.     Stephen H. Wildstrom The Best-Laid Plans of Copyright Law…
          BusinessWeek Asian Edition / February 24, 2003
   2.     About Intellectual Property http://www.wipo.org/about-ip/en/index.html
   3.     http://www.intellectual-
          property.gov.uk/std/resources/other_ip_rights/facts.htm

				
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