India’s Patent Rules Impact – UPSC GS3

It is said that open source software are the future and patent is a drag on innovation. Examine why and also examine how India’s patent rules are affecting innovation in India.

Open source software have their source codes available to public and hence any person can modify it for bettering the product. Thus it pulls innovations. Besides it is inexpensive, promotes transparency and boosts small businesses and governance.
Globally we see support for open source like Free Software Movement, Copy Left, etc. Also open governance is increasingly becoming popular as governance 2.O. These promote integration of technology into governance and democratic decentralisation with added transparency.
Some examples for open source software are Perl, PHP, GNU Linux, etc.
Patents can be seen as obstructions because:
  1. They create monopoly and suppress start-ups by monetising even basic services.
  2. Evergreening helps monopolies to be extended and extract heavy royalty and penalties.
Indian Patent Act, section 3K, mentions computer programs per se and algorithms which are not patentable. Recently released Computer Related Invention guidelines mention that only software involving novel hardware applications are patentable. This is a welcome step for start-ups in India and Digital India as we do not wish to create monopolies and aim at welfarian outcomes just as was our stand on Net Neutrality. History shows that innovation existed even before patent regime like web serving programs by CERN and patent free regime may be must as it allows underlying technology to be used vastly and deploy solutions quickly. Also only22% of the patents granted by Indian Patent Office are to Indians and so there is no need to play into vested interests. However, IPR in software is a major issue for negotiating TPP.
The future is moving away from expensive and limited proprietary software and increasingly governments are supporting open source platforms like SHAKTI processor at IIT Madras. However, open source software are more prone to cyber attacks



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