The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) formed a six member committee on 22nd October, 2014 to formulate National IPR Policy. The committee, referred to as the “IPR Think Tank”, is headed by Justice Prabha Sridevan, former judge at Madras High Court and Chairperson of Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB). The draft National IPR Policy was released by the IPR Think Tank within 2 months of its formation.
The draft policy shows government’s intent and aspiration to stimulate domestic IP creation and innovation in India. Specifically, the IPR Think Tank has outlined a vision to make India a country where: (1) creativity and innovation are encouraged for the benefit of society; (2) advancement in science and technology, arts and culture, traditional knowledge and biodiversity resources are promoted by IPR; and (3) knowledge that is owned is shared. The IPR Think Tank has called for establishing an IPR system that would promote innovation and creativity in a knowledge economy; accelerate economic growth, employment and entrepreneurship; enhance socio-cultural development; protect public health, food security, and environment. The IPR Think Tank has enunciated a seven-point objective with several action points under each objective as discussed below.
IP Awareness and Promotion
Increasing the awareness of the benefits of IP assets, the conversion of knowledge into IP assets, and the respect for others’ IPR are considered as fundamental requirements for a robust IPR regime. The draft policy proposes to:
(i) Initiate a national level campaign of “Creative India; Innovative India”, and link it with other existing national campaigns, such as “Make in India”, “Digital India”, “Skill India”, “Smart Cities”.
(ii) Reach out to small scale businesses, corporate entities, farmers, artists, designers, and scientists, and propagate benefits of IP assets by way of audio / video materials, print media, and social media.
(iii) Involve eminent personalities as ambassadors, create moving exhibits, run awareness programs in multiple languages and in pictorial format to benefit those who cannot read.
(iv) Announce an IPR day, establish creativity museum, and give monetary incentives.
(v) Initiate IPR courses in schools and colleges, along with online and long distance learning programs.
Creation of IP
In order to promote the domestic creation of IP and to increase the number of IP filings, the following action points are proposed in the draft policy:
(i) Provide essential resources to creators and innovators to enable them to create IP
(ii) Make IP creation a key performance metric at various institutions.
(iii) Guide innovators to research on areas that are of national interest, and create industry-academia interface to facilitate IPR driven research and innovation.
(iv) Introduce utility model to benefit in protection of ‘small inventions’.
(v) Address the cost issue by giving a fee waiver to first-time filers, provide tax benefits for IP creation and filing.
Legal and Legislative Framework
The IPR Think Tank has acknowledged that the laws in India need to be revised in view of global developments and national interests with respect to social-economic needs. To this end, the draft policy seeks to:
(i) Review of existing IP laws to remove anomalies and inconsistencies, if any.
(ii) Introduce laws for utility models and trade secrets.
(iii) Take necessary steps to clarify, simplify, and streamline the processes related to administration and enforcement of IP rights, and make the processes transparent and time bound.
IP Administration and Management
The IPR Think Tank has called for improvements in the IP administration and management. The draft policy proposes to:
(i) Upgrade the IP offices, and grant adequate autonomy to the IP offices considering rapid growth, higher responsibilities, and the increased workload.
(ii) Build adequate manpower to handle future workload and reduce the backlog.
(iii) Expand the IT infrastructure to keep up with the demands of e-filings and other administrative processes.
(iv) Collaborate with IP offices of other countries for building capacity, providing training, accessing databases, and such.
(v) Adopt best practices with respect to procedural aspects, modernize to implement e-services, provide access to records both online and offline in efficient manner, implement quality standards, remove disparity among different branches at different locations, provide helpdesk and training materials.
Commercialization of IP
The draft policy emphasizes commercialization of IP for the benefit of IP owners. The draft policy also seeks to provide adequate help to economically weak IP innovators. The draft policy calls for:
(i) Establishing an IP Promotion and Development Council (IPPDC) and IP Promotion and Development Units (IPPDU) in different regions to assist all classes of IP owners in commercializing their IP assets.
(ii) Enabling R&D organizations, industry, academia, and funding agencies to collaborate for IP generation and commercialization.
(iii) Providing financial support, facilitating investments in IP driven industries, and helping IP owners, particularly, the small-scale ones to test and launch their IP in market.
Enforcement and Adjudication
The draft policy recognizes that IP assets are meaningless without the effective enforcement of IP rights, while at the same time preventing misuse of IP rights. The draft policy acknowledges the gaps in sensitizing and training enforcement officers, adjudicating IP disputes in effective and timely manner, and educating public to curb piracy and counterfeiting. The draft policy proposes to:
(i) Create awareness programmes to educate public, especially, the youth and students, on negatives of counterfeiting and piracy.
(ii) Strengthen enforcement mechanisms by establishing a centralized multi-agency task force for coordination between various departments and agencies, inclusion of IP crimes under special laws, and provide adequate training and infrastructure to IP officers for detection of infringement.
(iii) Designate a special patent bench in the High Courts of major cities, designate a district level IP Court, and create benches of IPAB in cities where IP offices are located.
Human capital development
The draft policy recommends increasing the number of IP professionals, experts, and leaders in the areas of policy making, administration, and enforcement, in order to extract full potential of IP. The draft policy suggests:
(i) Introducing IP courses in schools, colleges, and training institutions to build skills from grass-root level, and providing training to academicians.
(ii) Developing long-distance learning and online courses on IP.
(iii) Establishing collaboration between Indian institutes and foreign institutes to run exchange programs on IP.
(iv) Collaborating with organizations like WIPO, WTO, for teaching, training, and conducting research on IP.
The draft National IPR Policy intends to provide a conducive environment to build India as an IP progressive nation. The draft policy, while praising India’s existing IP framework, acknowledges the following needs: (1) spreading awareness of IP creation and protection; (2) improving judicial infrastructure and IP enforcement; (3) commercializing IP; and (4) developing human resources. While the draft policy is a step in the right direction, the challenge lies in implementing its objectives within a realistic timeframe. As such, the full impact of the IPR Think Tank initiative remains to be seen.
[The author is a Principal Associate, IPR Practice, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, New Delhi]