India’s poor 43/45 rank in global IP index of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center is worrisome, and India must attune its handling of the Intellectual Property issues to the global standards.
Thanks to the pre-and post-grant oppositions, it is an open secret how difficult and cumbersome it is to get patents in India. Even the most recent 2016 data indicates that as much as 98% of patents granted in India in 2015 were for applications over five years old and in one case, it was granted after 19 years of the filing of an application. If getting patents are so difficult, protecting them and copyrights in the country is also not that easy.
It is not surprising, therefore, that in the IP index of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, India continues at the bottom for the last five years—in the latest round, it is 43rd, ahead of just Venezuela and Pakistan, among 45 countries led by the US, UK, Germany and Japan in that order, holding 90% of the world GDP, covered on the basis of their IP environment-related to patents, trademarks, copyright, trade secrets, enforcement, and international treaties.
The problem is that even the much-awaited National Intellectual Property Rights policy, released in May last year by the government, has failed to change the situation much. While it talks of the need for better enforcement of IP rights and strengthening the administrative capacities to take care of delays, it has dismissed the need for the required legislative reforms in the area, specifically for protecting the patent rights.
It goes without saying that if prime minister Narendra Modi wants to accelerate foreign investment in the tech-intensive sector and also push Make-in-India in a big way, he will have to take the IPR policy beyond the rhetoric. This will require quickly addressing the concerns in areas like, according to the GIPC, ‘software patentability, life sciences patents, copyright protection and enforcement, and trade secret protection’.
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Unless there is significant improvement in the IPR policy, scope of patentability of computer-implemented invention and there is a framework to deal with the recent Delhi High Court decision allowing photocopying of the copyrighted content, India’s ranking is unlikely to improve significantly on the IP index.
Limited participation in the international IP treaties has also not helped India in improving its business environment associated with the IPR protection—interestingly, Japan has increased its score by 10% since 2016 due to the ratification of TPP and accession to other treaties.
At a time when countries like China and Pakistan are bringing in new IPR enforcement mechanisms; South Korea and Taiwan are reviewing their IP laws; and Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, and Vietnam signed PPH (Patent Prosecution Highways) agreements in 2016—continuing with a rigid IP regime will hardly serve Make-in-India.