India should consider introducing less stringent patent rights for “jugaad” innovations done by amateur inventors, a recent report published by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) says. The report, prepared by EAC-PM member Sanjeev Sanyal and EAC-PM deputy director Aakanksha Arora, wants the government to consider readying a new legislation granting protection to incremental innovation through such “utility patents”.

It will help push innovation done in Atal Tinkering Labs and Atal Incubation Centres under the Atal Innovation Mission and incremental innovations done by start-ups and small-scale enterprises, the report says. Various countries in the world use this model and three million utility patents were filed across the world in 2020, it adds.

What separates utility patents from normal patents is that they will be cheaper and will not require the strict novelty and invention conditions as required by patent law. The report, however, states the new law should make it very clear that ‘utility patent’ is a separate patent category from the regular patents, and does not dilute the rigour of the existing patenting system.

The report "Why India Needs to Urgently Invest in its Patent Ecosystem?" also talks of the urgent need to ramp up the manpower of the Indian patent office and provide the Office of Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks sufficient autonomy for financial and staffing flexibility to catch up with its global peers. Procedural issues in the patent application and trademark registration process that are delaying the grant of intellectual property rights (IPR) to the innovators in India have also been flagged.

As a rough guidance, the report suggests the manpower in the patent office needs to be increased from about 860 currently to 2,800 in the next two years. In the case of the Trademark Registry office, it wants the sanctioned posts to be filled immediately, thereby increasing the manpower from 168 currently to 289.

The report points out that the Office of Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks has only 860 people employed in the patent office as compared to 13,704 in China and 8,132 in the U.S. Hence, approximately, 1.64 lakh applications were pending at the controller level as on 31st March 2022 due to staff crunch, it notes.

Pointing out that it is currently a subordinate office of the Ministry of Commerce, the report called for more autonomy to the office by providing more financial and staffing flexibility.

The report also highlighted the lack of fixed timelines for various steps. It said the absence of a fixed timeline for filing an opposition against any patent application is leading to delays. It also expressed concerns over some ‘cumbersome compliance requirements like submitting information pertaining to the processing of foreign patent applications’. Outsourcing the administrative part of the process and improvements in the portal and filing system to provide a push to the overall patenting ecosystem in India were also discussed in the report.

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