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Pitroda calls for overhaul of patent processes

The commission is a high-level advisory body to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and is charged with transforming India into a knowledge centre. CH Unnikrishnan reports.
Hindustan Times | By CH Unnikrishnan, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 03, 2008 01:08 AM IST

Acknowledging systemic problems with India’s patent offices, the National Knowledge Commission, under the chairmanship of Sam Pitroda, has called for a complete overhaul in the patent examination system.

The commission is a high-level advisory body to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and is charged with transforming India into a knowledge centre.

The commission’s recommendations to Singh, a copy of which has been reviewed by Mint, asks that the patent examination procedures, practices and decisions in patent offices should be streamlined. It also suggests that a new detailed manual for examining patents should be created. The report was submitted in October but is only now coming to light.

The recommendations were made after consulting industries, lawyers, scientists and technocrats. The commission suggested that patent offices must have adequate technology that will allow for transparent and publicly accessible databases. Recommendations are outlined for 10 key areas that will facilitate a systemic reform.

“The process in intellectual property offices needs to become more accessible and reader-friendly and, therefore, the ultimate objective of all efforts to modernise the patent offices must be to facilitate more transparency and procedural ease for the inventor as well as the common man,” the commission wrote. The commission recommends that all patent applications be released with complete details so as to give sufficient opportunity for any pre-grant objections.

“It is particularly essential to provide electronic access in real time to all steps of a patent applications, from the detailed patent description, examination reports at each stage and all amendments introduced at various points in order to maintain complete transparency,” the report said.

As Mint reported on 31 December, India’s patent offices have been criticised for not releasing enough and timely information about patent applications even as there has been a surge in patents granted. Critics have complained that lack of information prevents them from challenging patent applications. Indian patent offices publish only abstracts of claims in patent applications, often with a delay of several months before and after they examine such applications.

“Currently, there is no way one can access details on how the patent grant/rejection decisions are made at the patent offices in India,” says Shamnad Basheer of Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre, who also recently wrote to the Prime Minister urging more transparency in Indian patent offices.

During 2005-06, the last year for which official data is available, India’s patent grants soared 125 per cent from the previous year.

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