Hasten patenting to get IPR policy going

On the face of it, the national Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy looks great as it seeks to promote and reward innovation through an efficient and easily accessible IPR regime. Some of the objectives set forth in the policy cleared by the Union Cabinet are quite laudable. These include creating awareness, in the first place, about the IPR itself because majority of our people would not even know what the intellectual property rights are. This is so because bulk of our economy is driven by the informal sectors which too can participate in the innovation drive of a progressive nation. While it is true that the universities and scientific institutions along with well-funded research and development units of the corporate firms have to be at the vanguard of the IPR-driven discoveries, the product development can take place even by small time artisans making farm equipment or a service provider coming out with a unique concept. No doubt, there has to be a dispensation to cater to the needs of all these segments in terms of processing, approval and grant of patents which can also be monetised.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the process to register a trademark may take just about a month from next year with upgrade of the patent offices. But the key lies in achieving this target since about 2.50 lakh applications for patents and 5.50 lakh for trademarks are pending at present. The multilateral and the bilateral trade negotiators, always complaining about Indians not respecting patents and IPRs, should take a look at this pendency which shows how enthusiastic the innovators and businesses are about owning up their creations, only to be kept waiting. Hopefully, the new policy would address this big concern.

Where the policy goes overboard is the power it seeks to give to the police in enforcement of the patent and trademark laws and rules. At this stage of evolution, it is the last thing which is advisable. The innovation has to be incentivised and the consumers would happily pay for it, if costs are not set prohibitively high. Although the government does have a right to resort to compulsory licensing if undue advantage is taken by a monopoly thriving on its patents under the WTO-TRIPS agreement, at the popular and mass level we cannot have a situation where the police have power to wield its stick in an area totally alien to it. That will surely be counter productive. Besides, a balance must be struck to ensure that the free flow of knowledge is not impaired at the altar of IPRs.

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