The Role Of Intellectual Property In Driving Innovation And Societal Progress
Intellectual property is the most valuable asset in the modern age, rewarding not only the technological innovation that drives human progress but also the global art scene. Back in 1970, the World Intellectual Property Organization was established to increase general awareness and understanding of IP.
Essentially, intellectual property refers to the creations of the mind, which include inventions of all kinds, literary and scientific works, artistic works, designs, and many other things. They can also refer to individuals whose reputation itself commands commercial advantage and profit. The World Intellectual Property Organization sets down the rules to confer certain exclusive rights on the inventors or creators of that property so that they can reap commercial benefits from their creative efforts or reputation.
When you look at social development and the innovation value chain, it is very important for us to recognize that society develops because it continuously innovates. Now, when developing these innovations, there is always a reason for their creation. They arise when people identify unmet needs in society and develop solutions to address them.
Therefore, creators produce various innovations, different types of creatives collaborate, bringing their knowledge and skills together, and then, very importantly, the government provides a legal platform that acknowledges creators efforts and rewards them for their creations. The government provides laws by which you can protect that creation, which provides care and incentives for the creators.
The second part is that, because creators are given exclusive rights, the government expects them to use their intellectual property responsibly and to share the benefits fairly and equitably with society. Overall, by creating a useful, friendly, and enabling ecosystem, we can empower people to create and enable society to benefit from these creations. That's the spirit of intellectual property.
For any societal challenge or even a global challenge, we need creative, out-of-the-box thinking, and if we are going into the traditional mode, we are no longer going to address them rapidly. To address the scale and size of India's population, we need out-of-the-box thinking and technological interventions. Technology and knowledge have the potential to address societal challenges. The government is encouraging the creation of IP-driven solutions that have the potential to address societal challenges.
From 2014 until 2023, nine amendments were carried out, which is a positive sign that the government wants a people-friendly IP Act and rules, that encourage the use of IP in an applied manner. The government has encouraged students and young professionals to establish IP-driven solutions and run their own enterprises. Thanks to the Startup India movement, India has become the third-largest startup ecosystem, despite not being on the map before 2015. We have 45 unicorns that are offering IP-driven solutions, so this is a major shift from the traditional economy to the IP- and knowledge-driven economy. This is the future; if we want to achieve the vision of ‘Amrit Kal,' then IP and a knowledge-driven economy, which has technology as our superpower. We are at the frontier of utilizing futuristic technology platforms. Therefore, we must leverage these technological frontiers to address the societal challenges faced by India and the world.
Firstly, the Indian government has significantly reduced the overall cost of filing and protecting intellectual property. This has resulted in a four- to six-fold reduction in costs, providing a boost to startups and SMEs. Secondly, the government has established a system of enablers who assist these companies in maximizing the output from their intellectual property. It is also important for various investors and financial institutions to provide loans and financial assistance. Overall, these measures have created a positive environment for innovation in India. Additionally, the government has encouraged startups to market their products through programs like the Atal Innovation Mission. This has contributed to driving India's innovation growth.
The term of a patent is 20 years from the date of filing. However, it is important to remember that annual renewal fees must be paid to maintain the patent's validity. If the renewal fee is not paid, the invention may expire early and fall into the public domain. Not all types of inventions are eligible for patent protection. There are two types of filters used in evaluating patent applications. The first filter is "not inventions within the meaning of the act," which refers to a list of inventions that are not patentable even if they are innovative. For example, traditional knowledge cannot be patented. Inventions that are against public order or morality are also not eligible for patent protection.
The second filter requires that the invention satisfy the "novelty" requirement, which means that the invention must be new and not obvious to a person skilled in the art based on the knowledge that is already in the public domain. It is the job of the patent office to act as a gatekeeper to ensure that only deserving inventions are granted patent protection. Frivolous inventions are not granted patent protection to prevent citizens from using them. In India, there have been some changes to the patent system. Certain conditions have been put in place to raise the bar for patentability, particularly in the area of pharmaceuticals. These changes provide greater protection, but they also ensure that previous inventions and trivial inventions are not granted patents in the country.
It is great to hear that the government has taken steps to create enabling factors for women to participate in open innovation, and that efforts have been made to create capacity-building programs to bring women who have left the system back into it. It is important to recognize that diversity and inclusivity are crucial for innovation and progress, and it is encouraging to see that the government is taking steps in the right direction.
However, it is important to note that there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving gender equity in the field of innovation. While efforts have been made, there are still significant barriers that prevent women from fully participating in the innovation ecosystem, such as cultural biases and gender stereotypes. Continued efforts and investments in programs that promote gender equity and inclusivity are crucial in order to create a truly diverse and innovative ecosystem.
Two things are very important whenever India is in mission mode, whether it be in space, atomic energy, or any other field. As we have shown in the pre-COVID times, we operate in mission mode very well. We need to create a lot of awareness about what innovation is all about and how the IP system can enhance innovation's potential and extract value from it. The second part concerns educational institutions; we need to create pathways by which the innovations that we develop at our institutions can be taken beyond the boundaries of those institutions and into the open space. The role of academia, industry, governments, and collaborations between nations will play a significant part, and as long as we establish our policies and processes in that particular way, we can meet our desired goals.
We must recognize the contribution of women in Indian culture. They are the carriers of culture and Bhartiya culture is passed down from generation to generation through them. Their role is pivotal, and in the modern era, this same spirit needs to be continued. Women have a strong potential to carry the IP culture in society, which is why women in IP are accelerating innovation. It is important not only to ensure rapid development but also inclusivity. To achieve this, we must ensure that more and more female creators are given their due recognition and celebrated in the manner they deserve.
Author is an Advocate practicing in the High Court of Bombay.
[The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Verdictum does not assume any responsibility or liability for the contents of the article.]