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Stakeholders flag challenges to IPR-led innovation growth 

Business Standard , Sep 06, 2016

Even as the government pushes towards intellectual property rights (IPR)-enabled innovation growth in a big way, industry stakeholders have warned of lingering issues that could slow it down.

They raised the issue in a recent meeting between the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and industry bodies such as Nasscom, Confederation of Indian Industry and FICCI.

The IPR policy, approved by the Cabinet in May, aims to increase outreach, speed up approvals, enhance commercialisation, and enforce norms. A large part of this depends on popularising registration of intellectual property. While DIPP has held roadshows across 18 states this year to create awareness, experts pointed out the need for systematically engaging small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).

“There is a need to target industry clusters with a large number of SMEs as last-mile problems exist,” said Kanchan Zutshi from Industry body PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry. According to her, the prospect of commercialising intellectual property remains low due to insufficient marketing opportunities for products.

Also, enterprises remain averse to registering their innovation due to the lack of legal help and instances of lawyers charging high fees.

The highly uneven distribution of intellectual property-related legal cases in the country is also an issue. “Most IP cases are registered in metro cities like Mumbai and Delhi, with far fewer number of cases in other parts,” said Nishad Nandkarni, associate partner at law firm Khaitan and Co. Finding a lawyer trained in IP matters may prove to be difficult in smaller towns even as IP is increasingly becoming a popular issue in cities, he added.

The meeting also noted the need to teach IP as a mandatory subject in law colleges, and that judicial officers should be properly trained in IP, especially the technological facets often involving innovation. Allowing state governments to have their own policies to better incentivise IPR filing, fund research and boost states’ economies was also suggested in the meeting.

“We will suggest state governments to consider this and prepare their own IPR policy document, but this won’t be mandatory,” said a DIPP official. Chief secretaries have been asked to select their nodal officers for intellectual property-related matters, he added.

The IPR policy has been formed as a road map to coalesce existing laws, DIPP Secretary Ramesh Abhishek said. Accordingly, administration of the Copyright Act, 1957, and the Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act, 2000, have been brought under DIPP.

Under the policy, the cell for IPR Promotion and Management under DIPP has been tasked to facilitate creation and commercialisation of IP assets in collaboration with the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks. However, despite having a huge mandate, it remains under-staffed with a large mandate, sources told Business Standard.

“An indiscriminate push has been provided to registering of patents and generating of IP assets, but the measures to link these with long-term innovation growth have been absent in the policy,” says lawyer Shamnad Basheer, part of the original think-tank constituted to draft the policy. He said the quality of IP registrations should be focused on quality and not quantity, saying that no empirical validation has been given to prove a higher number of patents pushed up innovation.

On the global front, India continues to be pressurised by developed countries, especially the US, on specific provisions in patent laws. Chief among this is Section 3 (d) of the Patents Act, which stops evergreening of patents after minor adjustments. While major US pharmaceutical companies are the most vocal opponents, their Indian counterparts are also against it.

There is concern over the fact that the policy has kept open the possibility of amendments to such laws, though commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently ruled out accepting of provisions which are stricter than the current Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement. The pact, which came into force in 1994, sets minimum standards for many forms of IPR for all members of the World Trade Organization.