Monday, 11 July 2011

Impact of Patent Reforms in India

Last week, I wrote about a new bill that was proposed by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. Primarily, the bill aims to introduce "Utility Models" (or "Petty Patents" as they are commonly called) in India.  The proposed bill has already generated quite a stir in the market. The "Indian Pharma Industry" has already displayed its emotions by objecting to the implementation of the "Utility Patents" in India. The pharma players objection is based on the opinion that implementation of the bill will hamper the already well-established patent laws and they believe that the bill is totally against the very principle for which section 3(d) was introduced in the Indian Patents Act.

Section 3(d) states  that the "mere discovery of a new form of a known substance which does not result in the enhancement of the known efficacy of that substance or the mere discovery of any new property or new use for a known substance or of the mere new use of a known process, machine or apparatus unless such known process results in a new product or employs at least one new reactantis not "patentable" according to Patent Laws of India. I had mentioned in my earlier blog post that "Utility Patents" have less stringent patentability requirements and are primarily focused towards granting patents for small modifications or "incremental" changes to the existing technology. The Pharma Industry has argued that the Indian Government should utilize other means (ex. Design Patents, Monetary Benefits) to encourage inventors who come up with these incremental inventions as opposed to granting them utility patents for 10 years. 

The future of the Bill is currently undecided and difficult to predict. It may undergo many amendments before it is finally passed by the Government. Many would recall that the "The Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill, 2008", also termed as "Indian Bayh-Dole Act", was introduced for the protection and utilization of Intellectual Property originating from public funded research is still pending. The bill has undergone many amendments. The standing committee gave its report on the bill and did not completely agree with the reforms that the bill proposed to implement. The main amendments that the standing committee suggested in the bill can be accessed here. These bills have generated a lot of discussion and debate with parties on both sides of the debate arguing their case in an aggressive manner. People have put forwards the merits and demerits of these bills. One important thing that both the parties agree on is the fact that "certain reforms" are necessary to encourage innovation and research in India. Some view these reforms from an objective point of view while others advise that a subjective approach to these reforms is required especially for a developing country such as India.

This brings me to the main point of this post. "How have the Small and Medium Scale Industries, National Organizations, and public and private universities fared till now at the Indian Patent Office? How many patents do they file every year? What approach do these universities and small scale industries have with respect to patents? Is there an "Innovation Index" defined for these universities and industries? Is there any way to gauze the current status as well as level of understanding and awareness of Intellectual Property in these universities and industries? More importantly, will these bills (once they are passed) make an impact on how these universities and small scale industries function or will the scenario stay the same.

Let's analyze the current patent portfolio of universities in India to understand how they have traditionally fared at the Indian Patent Office. I have tried to summarize the patenting trends in India by collecting information about the patents that have been granted to the various national institutes and public and private universities (Indian and Foreign) from the Indian Patent office site. A total of 239 universities/public funded institutes were identified having granted patents in India. 

The chart below presents the top universities with the corresponding number of granted patents that they hold. (Click on image to see the chart in its original size. The chart will open in a new tab).

The other notable Universities are shown in the table below*:

An interesting observation to be made here is that out of the 239 universities, approximately 55 universities are from India and approximately 184 are foreign university. Considering the number of national and state universities and the ever increasing new universities in India, 55 is a very small number. While IITs, IISC, NII and Delhi University a reasonable number of granted patents, the other universities have a long way to go before they can be counted among the universities that drive innovation in India. A few universities that are catching up and encouraging their students and faculty to file for patent applications arNational Institute Of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, National Institute of Design, G. B. Pant University, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Jadavpur University, North Maharashtra University and Pune University.

Thus, a majority of Indian Universities have a long way to go before they can be compared with other universities in the world in terms of driving innovation and building an atmosphere that will result in more number of patent applications being filed in their name. The proposed bills for petty patents and the Indian version of Bayh-Dole Act may certainly facilitate in increasing the number of patent applications from these universities and small scale industries,  however, until and unless changes are made at the grass root level, it would be futile to expect any drastic changes in the near future. While the politicians, scientists and social activists debate on the status of these bills, is there any thing that can be done (without obviously requiring another bill to be proposed) to make a change in how a majority of Indian universities view Intellectual Property?

More importantly, do you think these bills will make an impact?

* The complete list of university will be available on request

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