Why India Needs to Urgently Invest in its Patent Ecosystem?

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    • Recently the report “Why India Needs to Urgently Invest in its Patent Ecosystem?” was released by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM).

    Report Highlights

    • About:
      • The report underlines the significance of a robust patent system for a knowledge economy and for the promotion of technological innovations
    • Share of Indians in filing patent applications:
      • It highlights the rising share of residents in the total number of patent applications filed in India, which has more than doubled during the last decade
        • The Economic Survey 2022-23, for instance, highlighted the rising share of Indian residents in patent applications.
      • For the first time, the number of patent applications by residents has surpassed that of foreign applications during the last quarter of the financial year 2021-22. 
      • Interestingly, the number of abandoned patent applications also increased at an astonishing rate during this period.
    • Concern:
      • A major concern expressed in the EAC-PM report is the long pendency of processing patent applications in India. 
    • Report recommendations:
      • Report has recommended several measures to reduce the pendency issue. 
      • Increasing the efficiency of processing patent applications will certainly improve the patent ecosystem in the country. 
      • At the same time, we need to investigate the patent ecosystem more closely to connect the dots so that appropriate measures are adopted to improve the patent ecosystem, keeping in view the national innovation ecosystem.

    Role of higher education sector of India in Patenting

    • Rise in the share:
      • The higher education sector of India is rising in prominence in the research and development spending and patenting landscape of India. 
      • The share of this sector in the gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) has increased from 5% in 2013 to 7% in 2018, as UNESCO’s data on science, technology and innovation shows. 
    • Industry and academia collaboration mismatch:
      • The growing prominence of this sector in patenting activity indicates the priority it attaches to commercially significant technological innovations. 
      • When the higher education sector is increasingly focusing on the development component of R&D, it is also expected that the collaboration between industry and academia will also increase in the area of R&D. 
      • But the reverse is true in the case of India.
    • GII’s indicators:
      • The Global Innovation Index (GII) is prepared based on the score that each country gets under 80 indicatorsindustry-academia collaboration is one. 
        • India’s score for this indicator has declined over the last few years, from 47.8 in 2015 to 42.7 in 2021. 
      • Consequently, India’s ranking in this indicator in the GII declined from 48 to 65 during this period. 
      • However, improvements in some other indicators have resulted in India’s overall ranking in the GII improving from 81 in 2015 to 46 in 2021.

    Issues around patenting in India 

    • Abandoned patent applications:
      • The latest Annual Report (2019-20) of the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications (CGPDTM) shows that the number of abandoned patent applications are rising.
      • The share of such abandoned patents in the total number of patent applications soared from 13.6% in 2010-11 to 48% in 2019-20.
      • Possible reasons:
        • Applicants are not confident about their applications passing scrutiny and, therefore, do not pursue their applications. 
        • It may also be possible, especially in the case of innovations with short-life spans, that the long pendency discourages applicants from following up on their applications. 
    • Filing of patent applications:
      • Since the adoption of the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy 2016, a lot of emphasis has been attached to the filing of patent applications. 
      • It is worth examining if perverse incentives have been created in the process, which encourage the filing of patent applications even when the innovator knows that their claims will not pass scrutiny. 
      • If that is the case, eliminating such perverse incentives itself will add to improving the patent ecosystem of India.

    Indian Patent Regime

    • Meaning: A patent is an exclusive set of rights granted for an invention, which may be a product or process that provides a new way of doing something or offers a new technical solution to a problem.
    • Indian patents are governed by the Indian Patent Act of 1970. Under the act, patents are granted if the invention fulfils the following criteria:
      • It should be novel
      • It should have inventive step/s or it must be non-obvious
      • It should be capable of Industrial application
      • It should not attract the provisions of sections 3 and 4 of the Patents Act 1970.
    • India has gradually aligned itself with international regimes pertaining to intellectual property rights.
      • It became a party to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement following its membership to the World Trade Organisation on January 1, 1995.
    • It amended its internal patent laws to comply with TRIPS, most notably in 2005, when it introduced pharmaceutical product patents into the legislation.
      • The original Indian Patents Act did not grant patent protection to pharmaceutical products to ensure that medicines were available to the masses at a low price.
    • India is also a signatory to several IPR related conventions including:
      • The Berne Convention which governs copyright,
      • The Budapest Treaty,
      • The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
      • The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) all of which govern various patent-related matters.

    Way Ahead

    • As the patent system is a critical aspect of the national innovation ecosystem, investing in the patent ecosystem will help in strengthening the innovation capability of India. 
    • The right interventions should be made for the promotion of the quality of patent applications and collaboration between academia and industry.

    Source: TH