India is witnessing a significant surge in its patent activities, reflecting a robust and evolving intellectual property environment.
In an op-ed in the Financial Express, EAC-PM member Sanjeev Sanyal and joint director Aakansha Arora discussed this trend and predict that India is set to have a capacity to annually grant 1 lakh patents by 2025-26.
Here are the key points from the article:
Rapid Growth in IPR
India has shown a substantial increase in its IPR activities, rising to the third position globally in trademark filings in 2022, up from fifth in the previous year.
Increase in Patent Activities
The number of patent applications and grants in India has been on the rise.
In 2016-17, India granted 9,847 patents from 45,444 applications. This number increased to 34,153 grants from 82,805 applications in 2022-23.
The projections for the current year suggest that India may grant between 55,000 to 60,000 patents.
Shift in Patent Application Trends
Earlier, most patent applications in India were from MNCs regularizing their foreign patents. However, there has been a significant increase in applications filed by Indian residents, accounting for over half of the total applications in 2022-23.
"The resident applications now account for more than half (52.3 per cent) of the total applications in 2022-23, whereas they were just 29 per cent in 2016-17," Sanyal and Arora noted in their Op-ed.
This increase in patent registration by Indians is important because this is a reflection of greater innovation in the country and not merely registration of foreign patents, they added.
Challenges in the Patent Granting Process
Despite improvements, India still lags in the efficiency of its patent process.
The average time to grant a patent in India is 4.3 years, which is longer than in the US and China.
"The average pendency time in India is 4.3 years (51 months) in 2022, as compared to 2 years in the US and 1.4 years in China. Of course, this is an improvement over the 64 months in 2017, but a lot still needs to be done," said Sanyal and Arora in the Op-ed.
Further, India also lags its global peers in terms of the number of patent applications.
"India is at the sixth rank when measured in quantum of patent applications, but the gap with top five offices is large. The number of patents filed in China and the US, which are the top two countries, stood at 16,19,268 and 5,94,340 in 2022,"
Correspondingly, the patents granted in the US and China were 7,98,347 and 3,23,410 respectively, they added.
According to Sanyal and Arora, one thing that has recently changed in pendency time in India is the composition.
"Now all the delay is at the final decision stage, not at the stage of first office action where the average pendency is only 4 months," they said.
They highlighted that in 2017, the entire pendency was at the first office action stage (52 months out of total 64).
Manpower Shortage in Patent Offices and efforts to tackle it
A primary issue identified in India is the shortage of manpower in patent offices.
Comparatively, India has significantly fewer personnel in its patent office than China and the US.
"As per the latest numbers, India has close to 900 people in the patent office compared to 13,704 in China and 8,234 in the US," Sanyal and Arora said.
"Some manpower was added at the examiner level few years ago, which merely shifted the bottleneck at the next decision stage, i.e. at the controller level. This is reflected in the reduction in average pendency time for first office action and increase for final disposal," Sanyal and Arora said.
As on March 2023, there were about 1.67 lakh cases pending at the controller level for which preliminary examination has already been done, they added.
The Indian government has recognised this issue and is working to increase the sanctioned strength of the patent office.
By 2025-26, the total manpower is expected to more than double, with additional contractual positions also being filled.
"Hiring over the next three years will more than double the total manpower of patent office to 1,961 (963 controllers and 998 examiners) by 2025-26. Additionally, contractual posts for 210 technical assistants to the controllers and 40 researchers were sanctioned for which hiring has already started. Even for trademarks, 510 contractual posts were sanctioned, on which hiring has already happened," they added.
Financial viability of expanding patent office manpower :
Sanyal and Arora emphasise that expanding the patent office's manpower should not be a fiscal concern as it is a revenue-generating activity.
In 2021-22, the revenue generated by the patent office significantly exceeded its expenditure.
"During the year 2021-22, total revenue generated was Rs 1,093.24 crore, while total expenditure was only Rs 204.07 crore," they said.
Sanyal and Arora further said that given the trends and push to significantly ramp up the size of India’s patent office, India can easily move up the ladder.
"We expect India to have a capacity to annually grant 1 lakh patents by 2025-26," they added.
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