Connecting the dots to boost the patent ecosystem


The recent report of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM), Why India Needs to Urgently Invest in its Patent Ecosystem, highlights the significance of a robust patent system for a knowledge economy and for the promotion of technological innovations.

Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PMEAC or EAC-PM) is a non-constitutional, non-permanent and independent body constituted to give economic advice to the Government of India, specifically the Prime Minister on economic issues like inflation, microfinance, and industrial output.

Highlights of the report:

  • The rising share of residents in the total number of patent applications filed in India, which has more than doubled during the last decade. And, 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.
  • The Economic Survey 2022-23, for instance, highlighted the rising share of Indian residents in patent applications.
  • A major concern expressed in the EAC-PM report is the long pendency of processing patent applications in India. Therefore, it has recommended several measures to reduce this. 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.

On abandoned applications :

The total number of patent applications to the Indian patent office has increased by 48% between 2010-11 and 2020-21, largely driven by applications by residents. Interestingly, the number of abandoned patent applications also increased at an astonishing rate during this period.

Indian patent regime:

Intellectual property rights (IPR) are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names and images used in commerce. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time.The most common types of IPR include patents, copyrights, geographical indication (GI) tag, industrial design, trade marks and trade secrets.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:

  1. It should be novel
  2. It should have inventive step/s or it must be non-obvious
  3. It should be capable of Industrial application
  4. 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 (WTO) in 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:

  1. The Berne Convention which governs copyright,
  2. The Budapest Treaty,
  3. The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
  4. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) all of which govern various patent-related matters.

National Intellectual Property Rights Policy 2016:

  • 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.
  • 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 per UNESCO data.
  • The number of patent applications filed by the top 10 academic institutes and universities in India (in terms of the number of patent applications) rose by more than two times during 2015- 2020. Their share in the patent applications by residents also doubled from 6.4% to 12.2% during the same period.
  • 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.

Low score for this indicator:

  • The Global Innovation Index (GII) is prepared based on the score that each country gets under 80 indicators — industry-academia collaboration is one. India’s score for this indicator has in fact 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.
Global Innovation Index (GII) is an annual ranking of countries by their capacity for, and success in, innovation. Until 2021 it was published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in partnership with Cornell University, INSEAD, and other organisations.

The draft of the National Auto Policy 2018 (Draft) points out that collaboration between the industry and academia in India has been limited to niche research areas that have low commercial significance. It also admits that innovations from India, originating from collaborative research projects, and implemented and commercialised in the automotive space have been scarce. This is not confined to the automotive sector but is a phenomenon prevalent across most sectors in India.

Conclusion :

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.


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