Universities and patents

How do Patents help Universities?  

Patents help universities in the following ways:

  1. It helps them improve their ranking,
  2. establish an innovation ecosystem,
  3. incubate knowledge-based start-ups,
  4. earn additional revenue and measure research activity.

UGC push to IPR:

In its biggest push to create entrepreneurial universities, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has now asked all universities in India to set up Intellectual Property (IP) Centres.

What will Universities face as they line up to set up these centres?

  • They will face a strange human resources problem, i.e. despite the policy push to have more IP, we simply do not have enough IP professionals in the country.
  • It is important to note that the dearth of IP professionals is a problem related to the field of intellectual property itself.
  • Its recent rise to prominence in the international arena, thanks to various international treaties and trade agreements, along with the legal-centric approach where law schools and colleges are the only institutions which mandate teaching these subjects, are reasons why the supply of IP professionals is not keeping pace with demand.

Patent Agent Exam:

  • It is important to note that the Central government conducts the only competitive examination in the country to check a person’s proficiency in IP.
  • Experts believe that fine-tuning the patent agent examination to cater to the growing IP needs of the country can be a successful way to build a band of professionals and create career opportunities.
  • Any Indian citizen with a bachelor’s degree in science or technology can take the examination. Upon clearing it the person is entitled to practise before the Patent Office as a registered patent agent.
  • It is important to note that qualifying the exam allows science graduates to draft, file and procure patents from the Patent Office on behalf of inventors.
  • India has a poor patent agent density, with only about 2,000 registered patent agents currently in practice.
  • The last time when the Patent Office conducted the patent agent exam, in 2016, around 2,600 candidates took it, a paltry number if one looks at the ambitious goals set by the IPR Policy.

Changes in IPRs since the introduction of the National IPR Policy in 2016:

  • The grants rates at the Patent Office have increased: in 2017-2018, there was a 32% increase in the number of patents granted compared to the earlier year.
  • The Patent Office increased its workforce with the inclusion of 459 new examiners and is on the lookout for more.
  • The timeline for filing responses to official objections for patents has been reduced by half.
  • While the disposal rate has increased, the filing rate for patents has not changed significantly.
  • In 2016-17, the Patent Office reported a dip of 3.2% in filing compared to the previous financial year.

Way forward:

  • The ambitious goal set by India’s IPR Policy will be realised only when the examination becomes the foundation for making a career in IPR.
  • It is important to note that in a dynamic field such as intellectual property, in order to create a band of qualified IP professionals there should be a push towards post-qualification continuous education as well.
  • In conclusion, to achieve this, the format, membership, syllabus and the frequency of the patent agent examination will need to be addressed.