For a country that is among the global top five in excellence in research, India’s patent profile is far from remarkable. Among the key reasons for this is a lack of awareness of intellectual property protection and of ways to commercially deploy patents to one’s benefit, discover Richa Sharma and Kanu Sarda.
India is among the top five countries in the world in terms of research but lags far behind on commercially exploiting innovations. A government study has admitted that Indian researchers focus only on publishing research findings rather than filing patents and reaping financial benefits.
Compared to India, the commercial exploitation of innovations by countries like the US, Germany, France, the UK, Japan and South Korea have contributed in a big way to their financial stability.
The revelation was made in a study entitled ‘Mapping Patents and Research Publications of Higher Education Institutes and National R&D Laboratories of India’. It was done by the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology -- Centre for Policy Research at Panjab University, Chandigarh, for nearly 1000 institutions (higher education institutes and national R&D labs) for a period of seven years (2010-16).
The study emphasises that while India has a large number of institutes that excel in publishing research articles, only a handful of them translate it further through patent publications.
This is reiterated in the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) Report, 2017 as well, which states that India ranks fifth globally in terms of research publications but its patent profile needs a major boost as it is ranked 45th in the indicator of intellectual property rights (IPR).
According to the government study, the institutes performing well in both categories (research publications and patents granted) are IISc-Bangalore, IIT-Bombay, IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Madras, IIT-Delhi, University of Delhi-Delhi and AIIMS-Delhi.
According to the study, the highest number of patents (174) was granted to the IISc during the 2010-2016 period, but that figure is just 1.5 per cent of the number of publications (10852).
During the period 2010-16, the total number of research publications by the top 50 institutions across India ranged between 1854 and 15052. Among the top 50 institutions ranked on the basis of research publications, only 11 institutes generated over 25 patents (granted) led by IISc-Bangalore (174) and Central Food Technological Research Institue-Mysore (144). Fourteen institutions had no patent (granted) and 17 had patents (granted) in the range of 1-5.
Dr Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, said the focus of many Indian researchers is more on publishing their research work, which needs a paradigm shift.
“In India, many patentable inventions are not being commercialised -- not because they do not work. but because the inventor is unable to exploit it commercially primarily due to lack of enhancing mechanisms. Hence, there is a need for inclusive IP mechanisms in the country,” said Sharma.
“There is a need, and the responsibility lies on all of us, for making researchers aware about patent filing and the advantages of collaboration with the industrial sector for commercialising their innovations,” he added.
Why are patents important?
The study explains that patents occupy a prominent position as global indicators for ranking of world economies. In general, there is a direct relation between the economy and the patent regime of a nation. An inventor has a legal right over inventions, which are termed as intellectual property rights (IPRs).
IP protection is critical to foster innovation.
Currently, IPRs cover patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs, geographical indications (GI), layout designs, trade secrets and new plant varieties. Without the protection of ideas, individuals, as well as businesses, will not reap the full benefits of their inventions and thus will focus less on R&D.
The study highlights that to bridge the gap of converting research into tangible products or patents, researchers need to be supported with an adequate and effective translational research ecosystem comprising an IPR (intellectual property rights) cell, technology transfer cell (TTC), entrepreneur cell, and industry-institute partnership cell. Of the 16 top institutes pursuing research and patenting, only seven have dedicated TTCs. But among the top five, only three have dedicated TTCs.
The study says the main reasons for Indian institutes not going for patents are a lack of awareness among faculty about the importance of emphasising the necessity of IPRs to students/researchers; lack of financial support from the government for filing and maintenance of a patent; the long time taken to process a patent in India; absence of incentives or recognition for patent filing, among others.
It says a total of 12 institutes have introduced incentives for awarding and felicitating researchers for their contribution towards innovations and technology transfer.
These incentives are in the form of cash awards (salary hike, financial assistance for patent filing or attending international conferences), decreasing teaching load and so on. However, AIIMS-Delhi, IISER-Pune, BHU Varanasi and the University of Hyderabad are yet to introduce incentives.
The central government has conceded that the time taken for grant of a patent in India is longer than in most developed countries and assured that initiatives are being taken to expedite it.
The National IPR Policy was released in 2016 that emphasises on the promotion of IPR generation, commercialisation and creating public awareness about the economic, social and cultural benefits of IPRs among all sections of society.
“The Government of India is also working towards reducing the patent-granting period by modifying various stages of scrutiny and examination, including application filing, screening classification and request for examination. DST, GoI-sponsored patent information centres (PICs) are also actively engaged in supporting innovations in their respective states,” said Dr Jatinder Kaur Arora, Executive Director, Punjab State Council for Science and Technology.
According to the central government, the time taken for trademark examination has already been brought down from 13 months to just one month, while trademark registration has recorded an increase of almost 5 times in 2017-18 to 300,913 from 2015-16. Examination of patent application in FY 2017-18 has almost quadrupled to 60,330 compared to FY 2015-16, while the shortest time taken to grant a patent recently has been just 113 days from the filing of the request for examination.
“A nation-wide campaign has been launched for furthering IPR awareness in educational institutions and industry, along with training programmes for police, customs officials and the judiciary. There has been significant augmentation of manpower in the IP offices across the nation, resulting in direct impact on the pendency of IP applications,” said Rajiv Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.
For a PATENT, wait 4 years
It took Shubham Sharma (name changed) four long years to get a patent on software that he developed for his company. “On my seniors’ advice, I approached the authorities to get the software patented. But as soon as I filed the research paper on it, I faced a whole lot of regulatory issues. Finally, after all submissions, I got the patent,” the 35-year-old said.
Shubham blamed time-consuming laws and poor infrastructure for this. “In this age of technology, no one is willing to wait so long to get patenting work done. Moreover, there is a total lack of awareness about patent laws in India and the government seems to be doing nothing about it.”