‘Global outlook changing on India’s protection for innovation’

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) After decades of concern, the outlook of foreign entities over India’s intellectual property rights regime (IPR) is beginning to turn positive, thanks to a realisation in the country that innovation will be meaningless without legal protection for creativity, say experts.

“One of the most powerful things being done in 50 years is on intellectual property rights. The new policy (under consideration) talks about encouraging innovation. We have seen in the last two years huge changes in our approach in this area,” said Pravin Anand of law firm Anand and Anand.

Modernisation efforts at patent offices, amendment of rules to streamline procedures, recruitment of a large number of examiners to handle the volumes of patent applications and efforts to reduce backlog are positive changes in this domain, he said.

“If this kind of a policy continues at the same momentum at which it is proceeding, then it will hugely change the perspective of Western investors. If foreign players are assured that they are safe here, then who wouldn’t want such a fantastic market (like India)?” Anand queried to IANS.

Corroborating this, Andrew Bradshaw, director, Asian Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, said Western countries feel there has been a lot of difference in India’s intellectual property rights protection after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive for a better regime.

“Since Modi took charge there is a lot of difference. I think it is a refreshing change. In the West, we can see that,” Bradshaw, who is also global head brand protection, Superdry, told IANS.

He said law enforcement was equally important as India steps up the regime.

India’s ranking globally on intellectual property has also not been encouraging.

According to the International Property Rights Index, published by the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation’s Property Rights Alliance, India was ranked 62nd globally in 2015. India’s score in 2015 was 5.2 — lower than its score of 5.5 in 2014.

The report analysed the regimes of 129 nations, both on the legal and political environments.

Regarding enforcement, Anand said it was important to ensure that strong laws that the country has on protection of piracy and counterfeiting should be taken to their logical conclusion by way of implementation.

“All bottlenecks must be removed. Conviction rates must go up if people are counterfeiting. Also, statutory damages should be introduced and granted by all courts. Currently it is the Delhi High Court that grants damages. It should be in every district court,” Anand said.

“Making laws is not sufficient unless customers are educated by way of policy and advocacy. We must have shelter of law first. Then policy document must be in place. Government support via dedicated enforcement agencies is also needed,” Pulin Kumar, legal expert at Adidas group, told IANS.

On the low patent filings in the country, Anand said: “The government must send a message to all business houses that their chief executives should have a budget for filing patents and should make simple targets for patent filing.”

He added: “If that happens then the abysmally low filing, which is around 45,000 applications for the whole country in a year, would increase dramatically.”

China files around one million patent applications per year.

Echoing the same concern, Bradshaw said: “Education is very important, especially for newcomers in the business. Educate these new brands so that they protect their intellectual property from the beginning through trademarks and copyrights, designs and patents.”

(Aparajita Gupta can be reached at aparajita.g@ians.in)

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