It is not often that an Indian report gets appreciation overseas. The 161st Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce was much discussed within legal circles and appreciated by the US Chambers of Commerce in its 10th edition of the International Intellectual Property (IP) Index.
The US publication appreciated the recommendations as a ‘welcome development’ and ‘a first major attempt at assessing the state of India’s IP policy regime’. It also highlighted the proposed Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) reforms in the report as being significant in substantially improving India’s national IP environment.
While critically analysing the committee’s report, the US publication lauded the recommendations on the changes to be made in the existing IP regime of India.
A study of Big Tech, comprising Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft, would tell us that a lot of their value is in the patents that they hold. Each of the companies has over $1 trillion in market cap and consider their patents as their biggest asset. A lot can be learned and adopted from their patent strategy, which is focussed on filing and acquiring high-value patents for their business interests. These patents are then used by them to advance innovation to further ratchet up their valuations.
According to Economic Survey 2021-22, India’s domestic filing of patents rose 30 per cent in the last five years whereas the number of patents granted during the same period almost tripled. A total of 58,502 patents were filed in 2020-21, while 28,391 were granted in the same period.
One of the reasons for the relatively low patents in India is low expenditure on research and development, which was just 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2020. This number is a small fraction of the patents filed and granted in China and the US and the committee has made specific recommendations to bolster the efforts of the government in this respect.
Huge talent pool
India possesses a large pool of creative individuals with efficient and innovative ideas. This necessitates establishing a robust IPR regime with targeted strategies and government policies that will strongly support the holistic development and sustainability of the intellectual rights of individuals.
Strengthening of the IPR regime has also gained significance in providing thrust on policies such as ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India). With continuous efforts in this direction, India has significantly improved its ranking on the International IP Index and currently stands 43rd among 55 countries. However, much more needs to be done, which requires a combination of effective government schemes and policies, fiscal incentives, financial assistance and technological infrastructure.
With a view to enhancing the current IPR ecosystem, the committee made an attempt to analyse the ways and means of capitalising on the strengths and removing the weaknesses of the present IPR regime.
The report emphasises the need to ensure an appropriate legislative framework on IPR in conformity with the changing dynamics of innovation, measures to expedite the processing of patent and trademark applications, active coordination between enforcement agencies and appointment of skilled manpower and additional staff for deftly handling IPR issues.
It further recommends the enactment of laws on issues such as anti-counterfeiting, trade secrets, financing of IP assets, AI inventions and educational copyrights. Through the successful implementation of its recommendations, the committee aspires to bridge the gap between innovation, economic activity and IPR. This will generate employment opportunities and encourage the inflow of foreign exchange.
The committee, in its report, has further recognised the significance of industry-academia partnership to boost research and innovation, primarily in the pharmaceutical sector.
While acknowledging India’s might and prowess in the pharmaceutical sector, the committee has suggested encouraging research and development towards niche segments and new drugs discovery in order to sustain its growth in the global pharmaceutical market.
To foster IP cooperation between nations, the report recommends collaborative efforts with other countries and international organisations through MoUs, which will result in the exchange of crucial information on the best practices and expertise in IPR. It further suggests undertaking consolidated efforts on the part of government, industry, civil societies as well as educational and research institutions functioning at the level of schools, colleges and universities in evolving a robust IPR regime.
These recommendations have been formed after extensive consultation with Advocate Generals of various States, leading law firms of India and also with the bureaucracy. With the report now tabled in both the Houses of Parliament, the ball lies in the government’s court.
The writer is Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, and Leader, YSR Congress Parliamentary Party