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India, Europe Renew Cooperation on Patents

Issued: December 22 2014

India’s IP laws have been revamped to bring them in line with international standards.

The European Patent Office (EPO) and Intellectual Property Office of India (IPO) have agreed to renew their cooperation on patents in an effort to support innovation in both sides, according to the EPO.


The EPO and Indian government signed a memorandum of understanding on bilateral co-operation establishing a framework for structured work relations between the EPO and the IPO for at least four years.


Pankaj Soni, a partner at Remfry & Sagar in Gurgaon, says Indians are globally-recognized as leaders in technology innovation. In its 2013 Global Technology Innovation Survey, consulting firm KPMG ranked India second in becoming the leading innovation centre for the world, third in the list of the most promising countries for disruptive breakthroughs – behind only the US and China – and the fourth friendliest technology innovation country.


“Admittedly, to look at the total number of patent applications filed by Indians in the country, the number is quite low at 9,911 applications (2013). This may be partly because a lot of innovation is hidden as it takes place on behalf of foreign companies,” Soni says. “But more significantly, it also reveals that our ability to capture innovative ideas and translate them into IP assets is suboptimal. Here, the lacuna lies in (i) appreciating and understanding the benefits that can be derived from the innovation-protectionprofits- R&D lifecycle, (ii) investing adequate resources into R&D, and (iii) reinforcing that the time and money invested in trying to protect IP will result in a positive outcome. While the first point is a mindset, rather a lack thereof, which is being addressed slowly (but surely), the second and third points go directly to our ability to generate IP and the ability of our IP laws, IP rules and IP infrastructure to help inventors realize the fruits of their labour. To create an ideal ecosystem for innovation, we need to invest more resources into R&D, which has to be supplemented by strong institutional pillars (educational, financial, legal etc.), critical amongst which would be a clear and positive legal IP regime (laws, rules and infrastructure),” he says.


He adds that India’s IP laws have seen a series of major revamps designed over the past decade to bring them in line with international standards. “IP offices too have been modernized and digitized to increase transparency and efficiency. But still there is much room for improvement in the administration of our laws and rules. I believe this collaboration between the EPO and the IPO has the potential to help India improve in the areas of patent examination and administration which in their current state provide less than ideal impetus to growing IP protection in India.”


Archana Shanker, senior partner and head of patents and designs at Anand and Anand in Noida, believes this cooperation will benefit India in enhancing the quality of patents that are granted in India as well as ensure that innovations are indeed encouraged and good patents are granted in relation thereto. “I believe this is a step in the right direction, which is to promote innovation,” she says. “Also, recently the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has constituted an IPR think tank for formulating the IPR policy,” she adds.


Soni says for Europe, the cooperation means that the uncertainty regarding what is patentable in India in the ICT-related industry will become clearer and the patent office will become more consistent in its handling of such technology. For India, the cooperation means that because European inventors will get a better understanding and, hence, more confidence in the Indian IP regime, such inventors will look to file more applications in India, thereby increasing the overall volume of inbound PCT applications. Technology transfer and licensing will also receive a boost as confidence in India’s IP system grows and foreign and domestic entities start collaborating on new ventures. Further, he believes as an ancillary benefit, a better patent office means that Indian inventors – the ones on the fence with respect to IP protection – will be encouraged to use India as a filing jurisdiction which will be beneficial for India’s IP regime and for the numbers of domestic inventors contributing to the filing numbers in India.


“Judging from past trends, it is safe to say that the Indian Patent Office is looking to increase involvement with IP offices in other nations. However, it is hard to predict which regions or countries it will collaborate closely with in the near future,” he says.


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