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Why you should patent your innovations? Realising the importance of IPRs, the govt is creating awareness among stakeholders & finding ways to simplify the patent filing process.

By Namrata Kath Hazarika

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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According to a media report, India granted 10,398 patents to global firms in mechanical engineering, 9,506 in chemicals, 4,937 in electronics, 2,896 in communications technology, 2,236 in bio-technology and 1,709 in computer sciences in the last 10 years. More than 80 per cent of patents filed in India are by foreign companies.

On the other hand, patents filed by Indian firms in mechanical engineering is 2,168, which is the highest in numbers followed by 339 in biotechnology, 3,354 in chemicals, 243 in communication technology, 150 in computer science, and 384 in electronics. Moreover, 4,614 patents were filed by pharma companies in India in the last 10 years. Among these, 3,575 patents (a whopping 77 per cent) were filed by foreign firms and the remaining 1,039 were filed by homegrown pharma companies.

The above-mentioned figures show that Indian players are lagging behind their global counterparts in protecting intellectual property. In fact, SMEs are the ones unable to protect their intellectual property and remain unaware. Industry experts say that the number of patents filed by SMEs in India is also miniscule.

The challenge lies in creating awareness among Indian companies, especially SMEs, about the importance of patent rights. "Eighty per cent of patents filed in India are by global players and the rest (20 per cent) patents are filed by domestic companies. Surprisingly, in this 20 per cent, about 80-85 per cent is filed by the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) labs, and the remaining part constitutes patents by SMEs," says Manoj Haridas, Head-IP, ITC Ltd.

Challenges in the System

India's inventions are in large numbers but the challenge is in attaining the intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The ideas are novel and inventive, but entrepreneurs are not able to satisfy the criteria of patentability. There are a number of applications that are piled up every day in the patent office, but are not considered by the examiners.

Surprisingly, the patents applied by foreign companies are quite successful in getting the examiners' nod, but when it comes to homegrown companies, governing authorities are unwilling to offer IPR. This leaves out a major chunk of inventors without protecting rights to their exclusive inventions. This happens especially among MSMEs and companies operating in the informal sectors.

Today, MSMEs account for about 45 per cent of India's total manufacturing output, and every other day these units develop new ideas. Tabrez Ahmad, Secretary General, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), says, "SMEs are struggling to make a place for themselves. Moreover, filling a patent application is an expensive affair for them. So, there is a need for the government to simplify the procedures for filing applications. This will help in the growth of entrepreneurship."

Presenting his views at a recent event in New Delhi, Amitabh Kant, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), said, "I am concerned about the fact that domestic filings of patent applications have remained static in the past few years at about 20 per cent of the overall filings.

Considering that the country has one of the largest reservoirs of scientists and technologists and given its reckoning as an IT and pharmaceutical hub of the world, it seems extremely unjustified that the levels of patent filings are still fairly low. There is a need to improve the level of IPR awareness across all sectors. It is critical that the need for IP creation and protection percolates down across industries, academic institutions and public funded organisation and PSUs."

He assures to take firm steps to reduce backlogs and pendency in the patent and trademark offices. "One of the major reasons for the backlog has been the fact that human resources in the IP office has not kept pace with the increase in filings. In respect of patents applications, we should also be in a position to announce the measures to be undertaken to address pendency.

"A number of measures have been taken to improve the delivery of services provided by the Intellectual Property Office in various aspects, such as improve efficiency in processing of IP applications, transparency in processing of applications, dissemination of IP information and in providing dynamic utilities in the official website," he said further.

The government has recently come up with the new IPR draft policy for stakeholders' participation and feedback. The government has set up a think tank under former IPAB (Intellectual Property Appellate Board) Chairman Justice Prabha Sridevan in last November to strengthen the patent regime in India. IPAB will review the draft IPR policy and release the new policy soon.

Govt Initiatives

Patenting India's innovations will boost country's manufacturing activities and help to achieve its "Make in India' dream. The initiatives taken by the government to transform India will be accomplished only by fostering innovation and creativity. Also, protecting and utilising intellectual property assets is significant. Moreover, adopting new technology, establishing new industries, launching new products, expanding and promoting investment are also important for growth.

The country's "Make in India' initiative will enthuse Indian investors and creators to create IP assets in India and utilise them in manufacturing. Foreign companies will be encouraged to bring their IP-protected inventions and creations to India along with investment and technology transfer and establish their manufacturing, R&D and outsourcing bases in India.

Similarly, BP Singh, Deputy Controller of Patents & Designs, Intellectual Property Office (IPO), says, "The regularisation of the Indian patent system can help in the growth of the Indian economy and will fulfill India's "Make in India' dream. Inventions play a great role in technological development and GDP growth, hence overall national development. India is joining hands in a number of international treaties. Going forward, we will be signing treaties on patent. We are also arranging wide range of awareness programmes running across the country on patent."

He adds that the government is easing the procedures of fling patent applications. "In the last few years, we have amended our legislations and regulations. The regulations are amended every year just to meet out the challenges. We are today having an electronic procedure for filing patents, which is easily available 24x7.It is a comprehensive payment gateway. In fact, the government is providing 5 per cent rebate for SMEs on filing patent applications nowadays. The payment fee is very less and high quality report is provided in return."

"I am sure that these steps taken by the IPO will in the long run reduce the transaction cost for industry and will also improve the efficiency of the Indian Patent Office. Today statistics indicates that only a mere 5 per cent of the innovations actually translate into viable commercial propositions," says Kant.

"Our IPR laws were duly amended in compliance with WTO leading to a comprehensive, legislative, administrative and judicial framework to safeguard IPR while utilising the flexibilities provided in the international regime to address our development concerns. We need to capitalise on the framework and nurture the innovative environment," he says.

Rahul Dev, Partner and Patent Attorney, Tech Corp Legal LLP, says, "Most Indian companies are service companies and not product companies; and product companies are either not focusing on protecting IP by the way of patents or their products does not cover original IP that is eligible for patent protection."

He further says that one major challenge is the lack of understanding about various aspects of patents. "For example, it is tough to determine whether a product/service is eligible for patent protection in the light of existing solutions or with reference to statutory requirements is a major challenge for most of the companies. From business standpoint, foreign companies can gain strategic advantage as they are more proactive in obtaining patent protection before launching their products and services in India. This may have been true few years back, but presently, there is sufficient awareness and it all depends on Indian companies whether they intend to file patents or not," he says.

"Most of the times, companies are not serious about their patent rights and hence fail to file patents. Recent amendments to patent laws in India have introduced a new category of patent applicants, SME category, which gets certain rebates in fee as compare to normal companies. This is expected to boost the number of patent applications filed by SMEs in coming years," concludes Dev.


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