Long criticised for the huge delay in clearing patent applications, the government is on a hiring spree, reports Banikinkar Pattanayak in New Delhi.
The department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) has recently recruited 458 patent examiners, effecting a fourfold increase in the number of such staff, to expedite the process of clearing over 2 lakh pending applications, a senior official told FE.
Prior to the move, patent offices had a paltry staff of 130 to examine around 43,000 applications a year. The pathetically low strength caused huge delays in the examination of patent applications, leading to the massive pendency over the years. Of the 458 new patent examiners, 396 have just joined work after training.
Over three-fourths of patent applications in India are filed by foreign entities or individuals, who also account for around 80% of the patents granted over the years. Considering that it will still take some time to correct the legacy issue, the DIPP now aims to bring down the average time taken to grant a patent to one and a half years by the end of 2017-18 (on a par with some of the developed countries) from as much as five to seven years in the last fiscal. The patent application examination is a serious and time-consuming process, as the grant of a bad patent not just poses risk to the broader public interest but even discourages serious innovators. As many as 2.37 lakh applications were pending with the government in the beginning of February, compared with 2.46 lakh as of November 1 last year.
The massive filing of bad patent applications (concerning incremental inventions, lacking novelty or inventive step) each year has also added to the patent examiners’ worries, as even these applications have to be examined as per the stipulated process.
Also, the government has amended patent rules to offer a “tatkal” option for the speedy clearance of applications by start-ups or those that choose India as the destination for first filing of patent.
Rajiv Aggarwal, joint secretary with the DIPP, said entities can now opt for an expeditious clearance route to obtain patent by paying additional fees if they choose India as the International Search Authority or International Preliminary Examining Authorities and file their applications in India first. However, only new applicants will be eligible for the benefits of the amended rules.
Earlier this year, the government unveiled the national intellectual property rights (IPR) policy to focus on issues like expediting approval processes involving patents or trademarks and consolidating institutional mechanisms to create a robust IPR ecosystem. The system is also aimed at encouraging Indian innovators to file more patent applications