Section 3 of the Indian Patent Act defines the subject matter which is restricted by law for grant of Patent rights. It has been seen that section 3(d) is mostly raised in cases of pharmaceutical inventions, section 3(e) in chemical/composition, section 3(f) in mechanical Inventions, section 3(c) to 3(d), 3(i) to 3(j) and 3(p) in Biotechnology related inventions, section 3(k) for software related invention and so on. Similarly, section 3(b) restricts the grant of patent on an invention - the primary/intended use or commercial exploitation of which could be contrary to public order or morality or which causes serious prejudice to human, animal or plant life or health or to the environment. This section has not been invoked by the patent office too often, except in the cases pertaining to public health concerns, however, one of the recently decided applications i.e., Application no. 1375/DELNP/2009 was refused by the patent office on the basis of section 3(b) catches an obvious attention. The invention was related to a method and device for controlling the position of numbering wheels of a numbering device as used in printing presses for carrying out numbering of printed documents, especially banknotes and the like securities. According to the Applicant, a particularity of this numbering device resides in that each numbering wheel of the numbering device is driven into rotation by its own independent driving mechanism and can be set to any desired position independently from the other numbering wheels.

The application had independent claims on the device and the corresponding method respectively. Subsequently, the examination report/s raised objection under section 3(b) and the novelty and inventive step of the invention in view of few patent prior arts. The Controller majorly refused to allow the patent for grant in view of the restriction posed by section 3(b).

The Controller observed that the invention used in printing presses for carrying out numbering of printed documents, especially bank notes and the like securities could be contrary to public order or morality as per section 3(b). It seems that the Controller has taken a narrow view by dismissing the said application on the basis of section 3 (b).

It is noticeable that the same patent is granted in Europe, Japan and China. On the face of it, the grant of patent would not imply that the Applicant will make use of the said invention for wrongful purposes such as printing currency, bank securities without authorization. In any case such use would attract penalties under the Indian Penal code and thereby granting patent may have its own consequences. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to see advancement in technology if the protection scheme falls short of taking care of the technology in such sensitive areas.