India’s dream of ‘techade’

India’s flight on the technological front has been jettisoned by the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Not only the focus is on entrepreneurship but the stress is now on innovation. It is very clear to policymakers that unless we are leaders on the technological front, we can never compete with the nations on top. What seemed to be derision eight years ago is fast becoming a reality now. India learnt a hard-earned lesson when turmeric was patented by the USA for its medicinal values, a fact is known to Indians for thousands of years but we were never serious about Intellectual Property Rights and suffered immensely for this. Our illusory vision of the past created anamorphic illusions of all is well and we are doing well. After PM Modi’s Make in India pitch things have moved in the right direction frenetically. There has been more than a fifty per cent increase in patent filing in the last seven years, from forty thousand in 2014- 15 to sixty-six and four hundred in 2021-22, a five-time increase in the grant of patents from six thousand to thirty thousand. Unambiguously the strides of achievement are visible. Behind the scenes, efforts put into this are not visible as a pragmatic approach and coveted labour have made it possible. This decade is of technology, ‘techade’, and India dreams to lead it from the front. It has not been one day job but a gradual rise year by year. Indian Institute of Sciences is leading the Indian pack with 145 patents in the last year, a record two patents every five days. The number of private entries for patents has also increased remarkably and domestic patent applicants have surpassed our international patent applications. Subsequently, our ranking in the global innovation index has surged to 40 from below 80 in 2015. All this has been due to the progressive simplification of procedures, electronic delivery of certificates and expedited examination for certain categories of applicants. India ranks now seventh in the world. But there is still a long way to go for India, China alone has more than half the patents in the world with its company Huawei getting almost seven thousand patents and American company Qualcomm with around four thousand patents is ranked second followed by South Korean giants Samsung and LG. Factually total patents filed in India are less than 5 percent of those filed in China and 10 percent of those filed in the US. In India, it takes fifty-eight months to process an application whereas in China it’s done in twenty months and in the US in twenty-three months. The real problem lies with the staff aligned for the whole process, China has almost fourteen thousand examiners and controllers, the US has around eight thousand and we have less than a thousand, no comparison at all. A proposal for two thousand more staff for the patent office is under process, once aligned will streamline the process in India to a greater extent. More than one and a half lakh applications are pending, an astonishing figure. In addition to this no fixed timeline for opposition to be filed against the patent application, and cumbersome compliance requirements which are not required at all, adding up to the delays.
India has an art of circumventing the odd situations, swimming against the tide is our forte and with the kind of personal interest, guidance and encouragement shown by our PM, the golden days of India are not far away. A bit of more autonomy to the Office of Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks by providing more financial and staffing flexibility can produce extraordinary results. India’s increasing scientific capabilities have already made an impact on the world scenario, we are at par with the US in space missions, one of the few with nuclear technology, in an elite club of the IT sector, as such, the day of leading ‘techade’ is not far away now.