The Indian Patent Office has taken various measures for the betterment of Intellectual Property in the country. In order to match with the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and in other jurisdictions like United States, European Patent Office and Japan, the Indian Patent Office has made remarkable changes in the Indian Patents Act, 1970. The law has been amended from time to time in order to meet the expectations of the industry. Nevertheless, there is still a requirement to take more decisive steps to strengthen the IP rights by creating awareness among the inventors, improving the administration of India's current framework and authorities, more transparency related to recordal of documents, the need for increased enforcement against piracy and increased legal reform, enforcement of civil remedies and criminal penalties. Talking about the role of apex courts in strengthening the IP rights, it has been noticed that apex courts are also playing an important role in creating clarity in complex sections such as 3(d), compulsory licensing, CRIs inventions etc. and giving revolutionary decisions during litigation phase. In this article we will discuss some of the demanding IP reforms till date made in within the Indian jurisdiction and noteworthy achievements by the Indian Patents and Trademarks Office.
Augmentation of manpower - The number of Examiner of Patents has been increased to 458 from an earlier 200 and the number of Examiner of Trademarks is now 100.
Data on positive changes
i) In Patents1:
- Examination increased by 72.2%
- Grant of patents increased by 55.3%
- Final disposal of applications increased by 37.7%
ii) In Trademarks:
- Pendency reduced from 14 months to less than 1 month
- Increased acceptance of trademark applications for publication from less than 10% to about 40%
iii) In Designs:
- Pendency reduced from 8 months in March 2016 to one month in March 2017.
iv) Online filing has been increased to 90% in patents and 80 % in trademarks.
Some of the reforms made are:
Reforms to encourage registration/ filing through e-File with the objective to promote the concept of Digital India 10%
concession in official fees has been made available for trademarks e-filed through the Trade Marks (Amendment) rules 2017, in line with patents and designs.
Reforms and initiatives to ensure international co-operation
International programmes for the Asia Pacific and BRICS countries have been organised. A bilateral meeting was held between Controller general Patents, Designs and Trademarks and the Japan Patent Office Commissioner. Further Members of the Chinese IP office had visited India. A MoU was signed by The Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom and the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion. Every year IP Day has been celebrated on 26th April, last theme being "Role of women in IP".
Reforms to expedite the process of prosecution
Provision has been made for video conferencing of hearings even from the attorney's place of business or at the Patent Office. Further, the number of adjournments for hearing has been restricted to two with the provision that each adjournment shall not be for more than thirty days.
Reforms for automation and digitalisation
Provision for auto-allocation of requests for examination and automation of process for registration and renewal has been made. First Examination Reports and Registration certificates are sent through e-mail. The provision of SMS Alert service to stakeholders regarding examination reports has been made. Comprehensive e-filing facility is available with payment gateway facility and it has been made mandatory for patent agents to file their applications online.
Reforms to simplify the process of registration
- Amendments to the Trade Mark Rules 1999, notified in March 2017, has reduced the number of Forms from 74 to 8 and provided for the filing of single application form for all types of trademark applications.
- Provision for filing extensions for submission of Affidavit and Evidences have been removed so as to speed up the disposal.
Reforms to empower Start-ups
- To facilitate the implementation of the Start-up India scheme, 50% fee concession in patent and in trademark has been provided through the Patents and Trademarks Amendment Rules.
- The Amendment in the Patent Rules, 2003, notified in 2016, has provided for the expedited examination of patent applications filed by start-ups.
Reforms for speedy redressal of grievances
Stakeholders meetings were conducted to receive feedback and suggestions. Feedback mechanism has been set up as a separate gateway to enable stakeholders to lodge feedback, suggestions, and complaints.
Reforms to ensure the quality of reports
A quality control system has been put in place to ensure the quality of examination reports.
Reforms for the dissemination of information
- IPO website has been redesigned to improve contents and ease of access.
- IP data on a real-time basis is available in respect of filing and processing of Patents, Designs, Trade Marks and Geographical Indications. A comprehensive online search system with full-text-search capability, which was already in practice, has been updated.
Reforms and initiatives for IP training and awareness
- IPR help-desks and online guidance system through e-mail are available at each IPO location.
- The IP office organized and participated in public outreach activities with industrial organizations like Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and The Associated Chambers of Commerce of India.
- Several orientation programmes have been conducted to train examiners. Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Intellectual Property Management alone has conducted 99 programmes on IPR- training, and awareness. Some programmes have been launched by the government for strengthening the IPR protection among incubation centres and research and development organisations. The establishment of new incubation centers called Atal Incubation Centres (AICs) that would nurture innovative start-up businesses in their pursuit to become scalable and sustainable enterprises have also been introduced in each state and an IPR wing has been established therein for IP protection and awareness. Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) is a professional body under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) Ministry of Commerce & Industry. Its mandate is to effectively implement National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy adopted in May 2016 with slogan– "Creative India; Innovative India". It has undertaken several measures to strengthen IP ecosystem in the country.
It can be stated with certainty that the reforms made by the Indian Government have contributed to a considerable extent, in realising the objective laid down by the National IPR Policy, 2016. Though India has taken important steps forward to achieve its goal, the country still faces challenges across the board and in all categories of the IP rights, specifically the additional requirement to patentability that goes beyond the international novelty, inventive step, and industrial applicability requirements.
Under Section 3(d) of the Indian Patent Act, there is an additional "fourth hurdle" with regard to inventive step and enhanced efficacy that limits patentability for certain types of pharmaceutical inventions and chemical compounds. Further with regards to copyright and trademarks, India has high levels of piracy with poor application and enforcement of civil remedies and criminal penalties. The Government is working to provide strong framework in Copyrights, IP cells have been created in the Police departments and officials have been educated to foster the IP rights enforcement in the country. The over-all registration and the prosecution processes must be expedited further. Much more needs to be done to create a strong IPR network in the country.
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