Indian patent transparency and accountability

I recently joined the team at SpicyIP and have been adding some India-focused posts there in addition to my regular posts here at IP Think Tank.

Shamnad Basheer, the guy who started SpicyIP, came
up with the brilliant idea to get an online petition going to put pressure on
the Indian government to create a modern patent database and to make patent
office decisions available online.

Given the importance of patents in India to all global players, we’d be
eternally grateful if you would yourself consider signing the petition and passing it on.

I have copied the post about the petition below for your information.

Thanks very much in

Petition: Request to make Indian Patent Information Public

I’m sure that a number of you have been frustrated with
the lack of a good Indian patent database. We’ve therefore created a online
petition addressed to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, highlighting this
lacuna and requesting his intervention.

We urge all those concerned with
this dismal state of affairs to voice your support by signing this petition (it
will be helpful if you also state your affiliation in the signature, although
this is not mandatory). We hope to submit this to the Prime Ministers Office in
a week or so.

Please visit the online
here(the place for signatures is at the bottom of the petition). If you
have any queries regarding this, please email me at . I’ve reproduced the text
of the petition below.

“Dear Mr.
Prime Minister:

With the
2005 amendments, the Indian patent regime has come a long way. Indeed, India is turning out to be a
trendsetter of sorts. Asian countries such as the Philippines are
in the process of modelling their patent regime on the Indian Patent Act. Sadly
however, the current state of affairs at the Indian patent office (IPO) leaves
much to be desired. Whilst there are a number of issues for concern, we focus on
two of the most pressing ones.

1. Creating Comprehensive Patent

despite India’s IT prowess, we do not have a
full-fledged electronic patent database as yet. As you can appreciate, such a
resource is of tremendous value to all patent stakeholders—inventors, industry,
policy makers, civil society, academicians and members of the public. Most
importantly, it will be a blessing for patent examiners. Owing to their
inability to readily access prior patent application, they are currently
handicapped in their examinations.

Some information is made available electronically by
the IPO, but this is far from ideal. Critical components of a patent
application, such as the claims and the complete specification are not

It bears
noting that almost all the major patent offices worldwide provide comprehensive
patent information via publicly accessible databases. It also bears noting that
the National Informatics Center (NIC), an agency of the Ministry of
Information Technology, was tasked with the responsibility of creating a
comprehensive patent database. Despite receiving funds for this task from WIPO
as far back as 1993-96, they have not been able to

2. Uploading Patent Office

Secondly, it
is lamentable that patent office decisions are never published. Illustratively,
there are over 7000 pharmaceutical applications to be examined and many of them
are under opposition. The patent office has accepted or rejected several cases,
relying in part on section 3(d), an innovative section unique to India. Pharmaceutical patents impact
not just the applicant and his/her opponent, but also the man/woman on the
street interested in accessing affordable medicines—a sentiment that has formed
the basis of our well thought out patent regime. You will therefore appreciate
the importance of making these decisions public.

Greater public scrutiny of patent office decisions is
likely to spur more transparency and accountability. Currently, one has to write
to the patent office and specifically request individual decisions—a terribly
inefficient way of doing things.

Today, most decisions by Indian courts are uploaded
onto their respective websites within few days of the judgment being handed
down. We therefore request you to urge the concerned authorities to do the same
for patent office decisions.

It will interest you to know that patent office
decisions were published for a short period in the 1990’s. A revival of this
trend is absolutely essential, albeit in an “electronic” format and in a more
timely fashion. Here again, as you may know, most advanced patent jurisdictions
have websites that contain such information.

In short, a website detailing comprehensive patent
information, including patent office decisions will create more transparency and
make the IPO more accountable. It will also equip stakeholders with timely
information on patents. This will in turn lead to a more informed use of the
patent system and better policy suggestions.

We therefore humbly request you to take this up on a
priority basis. You will appreciate that the two concerns outlined above are not
very resource intensive. More importantly, they will be an excellent example of India leveraging its IT prowess to
achieve a worthwhile public policy goal.

Thanking you, we remain,

Most sincerely yours,

Shamnad Basheer

Mrinalini Kochupillai

Aysha Shaukat

Prashant Reddy

Duncan Bucknell

Sumathi Chandrasekharan

For: SpicyIP

CC: Dr. Sam Pitroda, Chairman,The National Knowledge

Mr Kamal Nath,
Minister for Commerce and Industry

Mr Kapil Sibal, Minister for Science and

Dr. Montek Singh
Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission”

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