The Times of India -What can India do to become a thriving base for innovation and IP?

The Global Innovation Index 2021 report saw India catching up to world leaders and showing the potential to transform the innovation landscape. The soaring number of trademarks and patents in the past few years reiterate this fact. While trademark registrations in the country have climbed from 65,045 to 2,55,993 between 2015-16 and 2020-21, patents grants have also shot up from 6,326 to 28,391 during the same period. As a result, India’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index has jumped 35 spots, from 81 in 2015 to 46 in 2021. In 2020, India ranked ninth in patent, sixth in trademark, and 13th in design filings. The number of IP applications grew even during the pandemic, driven by innovation in the pharmaceuticals sector. 

The above statistics speak volumes about the changing view of Indian businesses towards innovation and IP. However, there is a long road ahead before India can compete on the global scale. In 2020, around 530,000 and 352,000 patents were granted in China and the US, respectively. This showcases the disparity between innovation in India and the world’s foremost innovators as well as the need for further change in the domain. 

The Government’s Role 

India has a policy-driven innovation environment. Thus, the Government of India (GOI) needs to be proactive in providing impetus for businesses not only to innovate new technologies, but also to safeguard inventions with appropriate rights. Fortunately, we are already witnessing their inclination to make businesses IP savvy. National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy, rolled out in May 2016, was a giant leap in stimulating creativity and innovation, and establishing a clear IP vision. It was a testament to the authorities’ plan to leverage a vibrant IP ecosystem to foster a knowledge economy. 

Moreover, in July last year, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce released Review of the Intellectual Property Rights Regime in India. A detailed study on the strengths and weaknesses of India’s IP environment, it was the first substantial attempt at gauging the country’s IP policy in five years. 

Modernization of IP offices, utilization of IT in e-filing of applications, issuance of digital certificates, fewer trademark forms, expedited examination procedures, and virtual hearing of IP applications are just a few of the many changes we have seen in the IP framework in the last decade. 

What’s Needed 

Despite all this, there is still a long way to go before India can stand amongst leading global innovators. The GOI, along with state authorities, must develop new ways to encourage businesses, old and new, to formulate their IP strategies and optimize their IP portfolios. 

A robust dispute settlement system could be a game-changer. The entire rationale behind creating IPR comes into question if the rights cannot be enforced. Excessive delays in the justice system also need to be addressed at the earliest. Alternate dispute resolution machinery could do wonders for the Indian IP ecosystem. In addition, although there is legislation covering almost the entire IPR spectrum, the legislative process is often uncertain and lengthy. Clear laws and straightforward processes can prove immensely beneficial. 

IP awareness is another area where a great deal of work needs to be done. While Indian companies do take measures to protect their trademarks, patents are often overlooked. Indian entrepreneurs need to know about the myriad benefits of the IPR and the pitfalls of failing to protect their technological inventions with proper rights. Governing bodies can collaborate with academic institutions, business organizations and other stakeholders to conduct regular workshops and seminars to enhance IP awareness and understanding. 

The GOI could also invest in incentive programs. Several countries around the world have reward programs to spur creativity in technology. Such incentive programs could push businesses in India to conduct research and commercialize IP. The idea has already been explored. The Support for International Patent Protection in Electronics & Information Technology (SIP-EIT) scheme provides financial support to MSMEs and technology startups in the ICT sector. It offers Inventors reimbursement of up to INR 15 lakh for each international patent filing. Under the Scheme for Facilitating Start-Ups Intellectual Property Protection (SIPP), appointed facilitators provide IP-related information and advisory, and assist startups with their IPR applications. 

Several state governments are also reimbursing the filing and prosecution costs to encourage startups to patent their innovations. For instance, Karnataka Startup Cell is reimbursing up to INR 2 lakh for every Indian, and INR 10 lakh for every foreign patent granted. India needs more such incentive programs with effective and widespread implementation. 

The onus to change the intellectual property scenario in India is not only on the governing bodies. An active role by businesses can help ensure the swift emergence of a new IP climate. They must focus on training and work on establishing a proper process of capturing ideas to make the most of the new IP regime that is cropping up. Any business that leads the charge will gain the upper hand in the times to come.

Case studies wherein IP has played a pivotal role in aiding businesses in positioning themselves in the market or generating additional revenue streams are needed. Such case studies are already in the making. These will help transform the way stakeholders such as founders and investors view IP. Startups will also understand the importance of IP in their plans for international expansion. 

There is no argument that this is the era of knowledge economy where intellectual capital is more critical than ever before. The sooner Indian companies realize the true potential of their IP assets and the need to protect these resources, the quicker they will be able to sustain and compete on the global stage.

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