The quality of innovation in patents granted in the country may be suffering due to the mad rush to achieve unrealistic targets set up by the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Mark (CGPDTM) since it's way above global standards.

Agitated by the CGPDTM’s approach, the All India Patent Officers’ Welfare Association (AIPOWA) has sought judicial intervention against fixing of arbitrary work target of 360 files per year for an Examiner against less than 100 in patent offices of the United States, European Union, China, Brazil and Japan. The Association has been representing their case since 2016 when the target for Examiners and Controllers fixed by CGPDTM was unilaterally linked to their annual appraisals.

In a petition filed before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the Association has flagged the issue on two counts - for adversely impacting their service conditions and hurting the country’s economic interest. The CAT Chairman, on August 5, permitted a hearing of the matter before the principal bench in the national capital, and it’s expected to come up for consideration shortly, Association’s lawyer Gyanant Kumar Singh told BusinessLine.

Manpower increase

The officers alleged that the department had kept the Centre and policymakers in the dark on the overall scenario. It points to the 2021-22 Economic Survey and last year's Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce Report, mooting manpower increase in patent offices to address the backlog.

The Economic Survey, as per the petition, listed that 58,502 patent applications were filed, and 615 examiners existed in 2020-21. The officers claimed that the policymakers would not know the set annual work target to dispose of pending applications. The Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on Commerce made a similar recommendation while observing that the sanctioned posts of 673 patent officers were not filled. So, where is the need to have more patent Examiners? It only highlights the disconnect between the department and government policymakers, said Singh.

The lack of clarity on the issue among different government arms is reflected in a 2015 assessment of the Staff Inspection Unit (SIU), which falls under the Finance Ministry’s Department of Expenditure. The SIU justified the requirement of one Examiner for every 120 patient applications in 2015, which is much below the target fixed by the CGPDTM, revealing documents attached with the petition.

A committee appointed on the directions of the Delhi High Court on the subject stated in its finding that Examiners were already examining 137 applications per year which was much more than global standards.

Quantity over quality

While challenging the arbitrary target for Group A Examiners and Controllers, the Association representing 600 patent officers has claimed that focusing on quantity than quality is bound to hurt economic interests because India falls out of the uniform global patient regime.

Singh stated the petition had quoted the US Government Accountability Office reports of 2005 and 2016, which have concluded that undue pressure on examiners would affect a “quality review”. Further, a study commissioned by the EU Patent Office in 2006 equally elaborated that unwarranted effort to increase work rate was counterproductive in clearing the pendency, he added. According to the Association, the benchmark for Examiners in the US is 94, Brazil 61, EU 52, China 88 and Japan 70.