1. Intellectual property: Why India has a long way to go in reforming IPR policy

Intellectual property: Why India has a long way to go in reforming IPR policy

An intellectual property (IP)-intensive skilled worker earns 40% premium than her peers who either serve products or services from IPR-sensitive industries in the developed economies of the US and EU.

By: | Published: June 27, 2017 5:47 AM
Intellectual property, IP, reforming IPR policy, IPR policy, IPR, IPR-intensive skills, generate trademarks, designs, patents, copyrights, geographical indications, IPR Policy of 2016, ITAR violations Struck in the philosophy of incremental improvement, we still have a long way to go in reforming our IPR policy.

An intellectual property (IP)-intensive skilled worker earns 40% premium than her peers who either serve products or services from IPR-sensitive industries in the developed economies of the US and EU. By definition, IPR-intensive skills are the ones that generate trademarks, designs, patents, copyrights, geographical indications (GI) and other rights. These could be in industries including pharmaceutical, engineering product development, chemical, automobile, telecom and design firms. Consider your smartphone, consisting of integration of designs, patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc, all combined together in a mutual agreement for sharing IPRs/technology and earning licensing revenues. Or consider a film watched by millions of people around the world, consisting of thousands of original or licensed copyrights, designs, patented technologies, trademarks costing million of dollars, etc.

Taking into account the ambitious skill development initiative and the IPR Policy of 2016, we need a careful consideration for the combined impact and responsibility of producing professionals adept at creating high-value addition products, services, jobs and multiple times the revenue. In order to classify India’s technological and IPR portfolio, we can divide her success stories in software, pharmaceutical, entertainment, space, biotechnology, kinetics and aviation. Having built a world-class human capital infrastructure, serving some of the largest technology corporations and their R&D centres in India and abroad, they are indisputably producing the best-in-class intellectual capital.

During my days of doctoral work in 2003, my guide had asked me to explain how “1.1 billion Indians produced around 3,000 India patents, while IBM alone got 3,000 patent grants in a year at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If it was estimated that IBM had approximately 35% Indians, what happens to an Indian here versus in the US or in any part of the developed world?”
Seventeen years hence, and after a start-up experience in safe technology and IPR transfers, I even now believe in the fact that, as a nation, we still haven’t gotten it right. Struck in the philosophy of incremental improvement, we have a long way to go in reforming our IPR policy. Nations that have transformed their destiny and industrialised over the last five decades have adopted the path of converting their ability to copycat western technology to strong IPR management systems that showcase their own technologies. India would have an unprecedented advantage of success in services that would allow it to improve margins much beyond the existing levels.

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Some of these semi-developed countries are still grappling with the services model and supply chains despite a strong industrial base. It would be of incredible interest to watch the West support a country that is democratic, and hasn’t gone the path of copycats, industrial IPR thefts and serious ITAR violations. The critical question to ask is, what is the minimum policy change we need to carry out within our country’s technology and IPR portfolio that will allow us to develop an industrial base at the earliest?

The political environment couldn’t be better, when global legislations like the Substantive Patent Law Treaty, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, TRIPS Plus and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have not met their desired goals. The recent geopolitical changes in the US, UK, EU, Russia and China leaves India in the vortex of attention and investment. At this instance, we seem to have got the politics and industrial readiness right; what is needed is a strong IPR policy with safeguards on IPR safety (policing, protection and enforcement) with underpinnings of judicial and administrative rigour.

We need to separate the grain from the chaff, and give IP an environment that helps a million saplings of high technology industries bloom through the route of safer technology and IPR transfers. We need bilateral agreements supported by the government of India with strong policy commitment to provide for safety of intended technology portfolio and follow through with action on the ground.

Interestingly, the signs of these are already becoming visible. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka are already taking steps to build favourable IPR policies followed with concrete action on building special courts for speedy justice to IPR cases, state anti-piracy units like TIPCU (Telangana Intellectual Property Crime Unit), helplines like the Alliance Against Copyright Theft (AACT) with active support of the governments and stakeholders. IP capability and process-maturity-based industrial IPR safety frameworks like the Integrated Innovation, Knowledge Management and Intellectual Capital (I2KIC) can go a long way in establishing global best practices in securing IP assets as an interdependent relationship.

Author is Founder, World Intellectual Property Rights Bank. Views are personal.

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