‘Creative India Innovative India’. This is the slogan with which the eagerly awaited National IPR Policy of India was unveiled by the DIPP on the 13th of May 2016. Before delving into the merits and demerits of the Policy let us take a look at a brief overview of the Policy itself.
The rationale behind the Policy is the need to create awareness about the importance of Intellectual Property Rights as a marketable financial asset and economic tool. The whole Policy is divided into 7 objectives.
I: IP Awareness Outreach and Promotion
The prime purpose of this object is revealed in the nomenclature used for this objective; IP Awareness. This objective aims at the creation of more IP rights in favor of the inventors. Promotion of IPR as a valuable asset would lead to the creation of more rights. This in turn would help in ‘converting every piece of knowledge into a valuable asset’. This object also envisages the creation of a National Research Institute for IPR to work as the epicenter for IPR creation and outreach programs. The aim is to percolate the importance of IPR’s as a marketable asset to every part of India, including the rural areas, where there is a plethora of traditional knowledge.
II: Generation of IPR’s
For the generation of more IP rights, there must be innovation. This objective entails the need to reduce foreign dependence and develop indigenous products by creating an environment conducive to innovation. This objective is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs and inventors into converting their knowledge/ inventions into IP rights.
III: Legal and Legislative Framework
The Policy aims at bringing about a stronger institutional monitoring mechanism in order to curb IP offences at the State level. The new legal structure aims at bringing about a balance between the interests of the public and the interests of the intellectual property owners.
IV: Administration and Management
The policy aims at making the administration and management more service oriented. It proposes the digitization of all government filings and the reduction of average time for pending IPR applications to 18 months (from an average of 5-7 years). It states that Trademark registration is to be completed within a month. (From an average time of 13 months)
V: Commercialisation of IPR
Commercialisation of IPR will create more value. The Policy aims at connecting IP investors and creators. It also aims at the creation of a public platform, whereby creators and innovators can interact with the potential buyers and users. Commercialization of IP will increase the value of IP during assessment for the purpose of marketing.
VI: Enforcement and Adjudication
The Policy seeks to strengthen the adjudicatory and enforcement mechanism for IPR, in order to build respect for IPR among the general public. It looks at the creation of specialized commercial courts for dealing with cases of IPR infringement.
VII: Human Capital Development
Increased innovation and the consequent increase in the generation of IPRs warrant the presence of experts who can facilitate this increase. The Policy, therefore, concentrates on the creation of experts in the field of IPR who can harness the potential of IPRs and put it to constructive use.
This, in brief, was the objectives of the IPR Policy of India. From the time this Policy was released, it has had its fair share of critics. This Policy drew slack from the majority of IP experts on various grounds. The most common point of criticism was that this Policy equated innovation to protection of IPR. The critics argue that there is no positive correlation between patent filing and the cumulative innovation performance of a country and that converting each piece of knowledge into an IP asset would withhold information from experimentation. They instead favored the free flow of knowledge and plurality of approaches.
To a large extent, deciding that the protection of IPR would cause more innovation might seem like over-simplification. However, in a developing country like India, innovation requires incentive. India needs to harness the innovative potential of its population. In order to ensure these two things are required: awareness and protection.
This is exactly what the Policy proposes to do. India is still at the nascent stage when it comes to innovations. Only strong incentives in favor of innovation will serve the purpose. In the year 2014, India spent only 0.8% of its GDP on Research and Development (as opposed to China, which spent 1.9% and US, which spent 2.7%)
In the International IP Index, released by the Global Intellectual Property Center of the US Chamber of Commerce, India ranked 29 out of 30 countries in the year 2015. This is a very disappointing ranking, to say in the least.
When this is the Global scenario, the IPR Policy comes at the right time to salvage the situation. Generating more innovation by a free flow of knowledge will come at a later stage. At this point, what India needs most is to encourage innovation and this can be done by the assurance of strong protection to IPRs. This will act as an incentive for people to engage in innovation.
The national fervor in India favors more protection and the Policy does precisely this. The provision to review this plan once every 5 years allows the flexibility to change the plan according to the requirements of the Nation.
Objective III of the Policy is laudable as it aims at the creation of a stronger institutional monitoring mechanism to curb the IP offences at the State level. This is important as India does not have a great reputation internationally, insofar as the protection of IPRs is concerned. In April, this year, the US Trade Representative put India, China and Russia on the watch list for inadequate improvement in IPR protection. A stronger enforcement and adjudicatory mechanism (Objective VI) will go a long way in improving India’s reputation with regard to IP rights protection.
The criticism against the Policy is justified as the Policy, in its bid to be TRIPS compliant, is centered on the generation of more IP rights by ensuring stronger protection. It does lack a specific mention about compulsory licensing. It also does not take into account the fact that most research in India is public-funded; when such is the case IP protection for such innovations is questionable. A preliminary reading suggests that it is trying to placate the inventors at the cost of public interest.
Despite this, the Policy must be given its due credit as a good attempt at drafting India’s first comprehensive IPR Policy. India has most definitely not sacrificed public interest at the altar of innovation. This is reflected in India’s commitment to providing low-cost generic medicines to combat HIV/AIDS. According to the Minister for Health and Family Welfare, JP Nadda, 80% of the antiretroviral drug used globally is supplied by the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry. This shows that it is indeed possible to cater to the needs of the IP owners, while maintaining public interest.
The IPR Policy must be looked at holistically; at what it seeks to achieve and at the fact that it is the very first comprehensive Policy, which shows the way forward.
How this Policy works and whether it delivers all that it promises is yet to be seen, but at the preliminary stage, it seems like a promising Policy that seeks to make India creative and innovative.