India: Reforming University Research Ecosystem Can Help Uplift India's IPR Index

Last Updated: 7 December 2018
Article by Heena Lamba

Intellectual property rights (IPR) is now a well-accepted concept rightly utilized by creators to protect their intangible creations and enjoy an array of benefits ranging from exclusive rights to gaining royalties from licensees. IPRs usually bring monetary benefits to its creators and consequently also to the nation. Revenue generated from IPRs in the year 2016-17 was estimated to be ₹ 60831.51 lakh as per the Annual Report 2016- 17 of the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trade Marks and Geographical Indications. Looking at its potential to generate revenues and foster further research and innovativeness, IPRs have now become important indicator for the economic growth of the country.

Major stakeholders in generating IPRs include public and private universities, multinational companies, R&D organizations, scientific institutions, industry, business organizations, SMEs, MSMEs, startups and individuals1 . Among these, Universities are considered to be the prime sites of knowledge creation. It has been shown that academic research carried out by scientists and researchers especially in collaboration with multinational companies and funding agencies have broader scope, wider field of application across different disciplinary fields and value as compared to non-academic research2 . This creation of basic research should get commercialized by transferring the technology through various means such as movement of the inventor with knowledge and skills to different institute or sector, publication of invention, inter-institute or institute-industry collaborations, consultation, entrepreneurial activities and licensing3 .

Sadly, the reality is different from what is usually expected from a research outcome. While carrying out research in an Institute or University, being novel and inventive is the first criterion that the researchers need to demonstrate over the prior art. Valuable IPs can be generated easily from such research by further modelling it to have industrial applicability. But even after funding and hardships of the researcher, the invention or the conclusion of their work goes in vain. The reason being lack of an ecosystem, which can direct minds of the researchers perpetually toward creating as much IPs from their work as possible4 . It is well quoted by renowned scientist Prof Roddam Narasimha that 'We don't lack talent or entrepreneurship but we lack the ecosystem'. Because of the present ecosystem, researchers do not seem to be aware of the benefits they could achieve, both in their career and financially, by disclosing their invention legally rather than putting it directly in public domain through research papers.

The basic outcome of research comes in the public domain as a publication or as a commercial product. In 2016, India held 5 th rank among all the countries in terms of the number of publications as per Scimago Journal & Country Rank5 , but its ranking in commercialization especially in terms of generating IPRs was still lagging at 45th rank6 . This difference in the rankings clearly reflects the unwillingness of Indian researchers to convert their innovation into technologies/products/patents. The same is also evident from the figure shown below, which clearly shows difference in the number of publications and number of patents owned by a University or a research Institute in India7 .

a

In order to bridge this gap between knowledge creation and lack of awareness to get it protected or commercialized, many awareness programs are being conducted pan India by government organizations, R&D institutions, universities and NRDC in association with Intellectual Property Offices and in collaborations with industry associations like FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM. Funds have been allocated for this purpose through special projects like Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM). But despite fund allocations for awareness creation, a research conducted by Einfolge, an international patent analytics and market research company in 203 educational institutions in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana revealed the following facts8 :

  • 35% people are not aware of intellectual property rights (IPR);
  • design patents, geographical indication (GI) and trade secrets need more attention to spread the benefits of IP rights;
  • majority of respondents including students, scholars, teachers and managers were not fully aware about the monetary benefits of acquiring an IP right, commercialization of acquired IP rights, or the legal troubles that one might land in for using a pirated product.

The study clearly shows that a lot more needs to be done than just creating awareness. Need of the hour is 'Change in Research Ecosystem'. Given below are some criteria that can be adopted to bring in some change9 :

  • Academia‐industry interactions to improve ability of the researchers to identify correct research problems having industrial applicability.
  • Incentives to researchers and/or inventors as a motivation to work hard in their invention and generate IPRs from it.
  • Technology transfer offices or IPR departments should be made with knowledgeable IPR professionals to help transfer of invented technology for commercialization.
  • IPR department to be made part of every research institute; and personal interactions of the IPR professional with the researchers giving focus on their research area and potential IPRs they can generate.
  • IPR to be a part of curriculum in schools, universities and Institutes to give sufficient time and exposure to the coming generation to imbibe the IPR culture.

Footnote

1 Annual Report 2016-17 of the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trade Marks and Geographical Indications. Available at http://ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/IPOAnnualR eport/1_94_1_1_79_1_Annual_ Report-2016- 17_English.pdf.

2 The Ownership of Academic Patents and Their Impact. Available at https://www.cairn.info/revueeconomique-2015-1-page-143.htm

3 The University and the Transfer of Technology: Principal Findings and Recommendations. Available at https://www.nap.edu/read/13001/chapter/2#2

4 One US firm files 135% more patents in India than all top labs together. Available at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/indiabusiness/us-firm-filed-100-more-patents-in-indiathan-all-top-labs-together/articleshow/65110947.cms

5 http://www.scimagojr.com/countryrank.php?year=201 6

6 International Property Rights Index (IPRI) Report2017. Available at https://internationalpropertyrightsindex.org/countries

7 Mapping Patents and Research Publications of Higher Education Institutes and National R&D Laboratories of India www.dst.gov.in/sites/default/files/FULL%20BOOKChandigarh.pdf

8 Study shows low IPR awareness in India. Available at https://www.livemint.com/Politics/Rap1LeEuftJTFeh Nt00gTJ/Study-shows-low-IPR-awareness-inIndia.html

9 Academic Patenting: How universities and public research organizations are using their intellectual property to boost research and spur innovative start- " IPR to be a part of curriculum in schools, universities and Institutes to give sufficient time and exposure to the coming generation to imbibe the IPR culture. ups. Available at www.wipo.int/sme/en/documents/academic_patenting .htm

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