Wednesday, December 26, 2007



Dear Mr. Prime Minister: With the 2005 amendments, the Indian patent regime has come a long way. Indeed, India is turning out to be a trendsetter of sorts. Asian countries such as the Philippines are in the process of modelling their patent regime on the Indian Patents Act.

Sadly however, the current state of affairs at the Indian patent office (IPO) leaves much to be desired. Whilst there are a number of issues for concern, we focus on two of the most pressing ones.

1. Creating Comprehensive Patent Database

Firstly, despite India’s IT prowess, we do not have a full-fledged electronic patent database as yet. As you can appreciate, such a resource is of tremendous value to all patent stakeholders—inventors, industry, policy makers, civil society, academicians and members of the public. Most importantly, it will be a blessing for patent examiners. Owing to their inability to readily access prior patent application, they are currently handicapped in their examinations.

Some information is made available electronically by the IPO, but this is far from ideal. Critical components of a patent application, such as the claims and the complete specification are not available. It bears noting that almost all the major patent offices worldwide provide comprehensive patent information via publicly accessible databases. It also bears noting that the National Informatics Center (NIC), an agency of the Ministry of Information Technology, was tasked with the responsibility of creating a comprehensive patent database. Despite receiving funds for this task from WIPO as far back as 1993-96, they have not been able to deliver!

2. Uploading Patent Office Decisions

Secondly, it is lamentable that patent office decisions are never published. Illustratively, there are over 7000 pharmaceutical applications to be examined and many of them are under opposition. The patent office has accepted or rejected several cases, relying in part on section 3(d), an innovative section unique to India.

Pharmaceutical patents impact not just the applicant and his/her opponent, but also the man/woman on the street interested in accessing affordable medicines—a sentiment that has formed the basis of our well thought out patent regime. You will therefore appreciate the importance of making these decisions public. Greater public scrutiny of patent office decisions is likely to spur more transparency and accountability.

Currently, one has to write to the patent office and specifically request individual decisions—a terribly inefficient way of doing things. Today, most decisions by Indian courts are uploaded onto their respective websites within few days of the judgment being handed down. We therefore request you to urge the concerned authorities to do the same for patent office decisions. It will interest you to know that patent office decisions were published for a short period in the 1990’s.

A revival of this trend is absolutely essential, albeit in an “electronic” format and in a more timely fashion. Here again, as you may know, most advanced patent jurisdictions have websites that contain such information. In short, a website detailing comprehensive patent information, including patent office decisions will create more transparency and make the IPO more accountable. It will also equip stakeholders with timely information on patents. This will in turn lead to a more informed use of the patent system and better policy suggestions.

We therefore humbly request you to take this up on a priority basis. You will appreciate that the two concerns outlined above are not very resource intensive. More importantly, they will be an excellent example of India leveraging its IT prowess to achieve a worthwhile public policy goal.

Thanking you, we remain, Most sincerely yours, Shamnad Basheer Mrinalini Kochupillai Aysha Shaukat Prashant Reddy Duncan Bucknell Sumathi Chandrasekharan For: SpicyIP CC: Dr. Sam Pitroda, Chairman,The National Knowledge Commission Mr Kamal Nath, Minister for Commerce and Industry Mr Kapil Sibal, Minister for Science and Technology Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission

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