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Scientists seek changes in innovation bill

delhi Updated: Feb 07, 2010 23:52 IST
Anika Gupta
Anika Gupta
Hindustan Times
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More than 15 eminent scientists appeared before a special government panel on Sunday to suggest revisions to a flagship innovation Bill currently under consideration by a parliamentary standing committee, sources told HT.

The scientists presented complaints regarding the proposed Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill, 2008. If passed, the law — the first of its kind in India — would apply to innovations by scientists who receive government grants.

“Several changes will have to be made,” Dinesh Abrol, a researcher at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, told HT. “The government seemed open to the reforms we’ve suggested.”

The meeting comes after several scientists slammed the bill for putting restrictions on innovation. They said the current form of the bill would increase paperwork and levy fines against scientists who didn’t comply with its provisions.

The department of biotechnology (DBT), which is steering the bill, on January 29 sent scientists a list of proposed amendments, currently with HT, which include giving researchers more control over patenting a discovery, and dropping the fines.

“Some of the troubling aspects have been removed, but there are still issues that must be addressed,” S.A. Shivashankar, head of the intellectual property unit and a materials science professor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore (IISc) said.

Abrol said the bill must be modified further allowing the government to receive royalties on inventions and to discourage the use of exclusive licences.

The parliamentary committee will hold the third of three hearings on the bill on Monday. A DBT source said “the language is being modified” and “any changes will have to be justified”.

The changes have not convinced everyone, though. Satyajit Rath of the National Institute of Immunology said, “The amendments address my original concerns, but I still haven’t seen any arguments that say that we need this legislation.”

The bill is based on the Bayh-Dole Act, a 1980 reform that allowed American scientists to own the rights to discoveries made using government funding.