Foreign firms lap up more patents than Indian cos

By: | Updated: December 3, 2014 5:21 AM

The US and the Big Pharma have long flayed India’s patenting regime — saying it is not liberal enough to...

The US and the Big Pharma have long flayed India’s patenting regime — saying it is not liberal enough to reward innovators — but the data on grant of these exclusive rights by Indian authorities over the past decade hardly bear this out.

Of a total of 62,613 patents granted from January 1, 2005 to October 10, 2014, in as many as 20 sectors ranging from agriculture-engineering to textiles, 51,532 patents went to foreign entities against just 11,081 to Indian ones. (see table)

This information came in handy for India during talks with US trade representative Michael Froman, who visited the country recently. During the November 24-25 India-US Trade Policy Forum meetings, US had raised the issue of ‘difficulties’ in getting patents in India and the ‘large’ number of patents revoked, especially in the pharma sector, official sources told FE.

India has countered this with the decade’s data. The revoked patents formed a minuscule percentage compared to what was granted, the data showed.


During the period under review, only 38 patents were revoked by the patent office or the Centre (of which 20 were of foreign entities and 18 of Indians), while just 29 (19 were of foreign entities and 10 of Indians) were revoked by Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) or high courts.

In the pharma sector, which is at the centre of the controversy, out of a total of 4,614 patents that were granted during the period under review, an overwhelming 3,575 patents went to foreign entities, while Indian entities could get only 1,039 patents.

The pharma sector also saw 15 patents of foreign entities being revoked by the patent office or the Centre and two patents being revoked by IPAB or high courts. As against this, only seven patents of Indian entities were revoked by the patent office or the Centre.

Washington has been pressing New Delhi to bolster intellectual property rights (IPR) in the pharmaceutical sector. The US is particularly worried about the “additional filter” of Section 3(d) in India’s Patents Act regarding pharmaceutical patenting as per which, apart from novelty and inventive step, improvement in therapeutic efficacy is also a criteria for patenting, when it comes to incremental inventions. The US also  wants to avoid “unfair commercial use” of R&D data made available by US companies to Indian regulators.

India is keen to ensure America’s support for its Make in India campaign and therefore has started a review of its IPR policy to give confidence to US investors.

In its April 30 Special 301 report (an annual review of the global state of IPR protection and enforcement), the US had classified India as a ‘priority watch list country’ after finding that India’s IPR protection and enforcement environment had “deteriorated”.

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