What is the common denominator among all these women: Josephine Cochrane, Katharine Burr Blodgett, Marie Van Brittan Brown, J.K. Rowling, Celine Dion, and Angelina Jolie? The answer to this question is simple. Whether they are inventors, authors, singers or actors, the work of these women share a common element and that element is intellectual property.

Marie Valerie Uppiah & Luvishka Seejore-Biltoo

Today, we celebrate the World’s Intellectual Property Day. The theme chosen by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) this year is: ‘Powering Change, Women in innovation and creativity’. The reason why the WIPO has laid emphasis on women this year is simply to highlight the contribution made by women in many fields and encourage more women to come forward and make their work known to the world. The WIPO also stresses on the legal framework available to protect the work of these creators and this legal framework is the protection of intellectual property.

Intellectual property can be described as works that originate from the imagination of their creators. Under the concept of intellectual property rights, creators are granted property rights in order to protect the interests they have over their creations.

Let us take the example of someone who has written a book. The person has invested much time, energy and money in writing, editing and publishing that book. Now imagine the situation where the book is being sold and the author does not receive any revenue out of the sale of his work or the book is being cited or used without any credit given to the author. To the layman’s eyes, this situation is unfair to the author. This is where the concept of intellectual property rights come to the rescue of creators. These rights confer on creators a moral and material protection over their creations.

There exists two branches of intellectual property rights. The first one being Industrial Property which includes patents, trademarks, industrial designs and geographic indications and the second limb being copyright. The main statutes pertaining to intellectual property rights in Mauritius are the Copyright Act 2014 and the Patent and Industrial Designs Act 2002. Furthermore, Mauritius is aspiring to become an intellectual property hub and the current Industrial Property Bill is viewed an important stepping stone in that direction.

To mark the World Intellectual Property Day and the contribution of women, here is a list of famous women inventors and their intellectual property rights:

  • Josephine Cochrane: In 1886, Mrs Cochrane was granted a patent for having invented the first dishwasher. The idea to create a dishwasher came as an epiphany to her when she had to undertake the chore of dishwashing after noticing that her servants stole her cutlery.
  • Katharine Burr-Blodgett: She received a patent in 1938 for having invented the ‘invisible’ or nonreflective glass which is today used for eyeglasses and camera lenses.
  • Marie Van Brittan-Brown: In 1969, a patent was granted to her for her invention. Mrs Van Brittan-Brown invented the first home security system. Being aware of the rise in violence and theft in her neighbourhood, she set up cameras along her house and devised an alarm system that would inform her of any intruder.