Recently I had the unique honor of attending the 2018 Licensing Executives Society International’s Asia Pacific Regional Conference in New Delhi. One key highlight of the conference was the speech delivered by the Hon’ble Joint Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (“DIPP”), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. During the session, he shed some light on the future roadmap of IP protection and enforcement in India. Below are some key highlights of his talk.

  1. The 2016 National IPR policy is a matter of pride. It is a general blueprint for the road ahead.
  2. Higher spends by IP offices: With each passing year, there is a clear increase in expenditure by the IP offices. Expenses are towards improving IT infrastructure, recruitment and training of new examiners and administrative officers, etc. This should help in achieving faster disposal of IPR applications and improve the overall user experience.
  3. Faster disposal of IPR applications: The Indian Trade Marks Registry has drastically reduced disposal times. At present, directly filed national trade mark applications are registered within 6-8 months (where no opposition is filed). The Patent Office aims to achieve similarly quick disposal of patent applications. In the recent past, patent applications were decided on average between 6-8 years from date of requesting examination. Currently, this time line has reduced to 3-4 years. By 2020, the department aims to reduce this further to 2 years.
  4. Shift from protection to transactional regime: With faster protection of IPRs, there is a keen interest to move up the value chain by developing a robust transactional and commercialization ecosystem. One aim is to develop a platform for intra country IP exchange.
  5. Balancing access and innovation: While IP protection and monetization is important, the Government has stressed that it will support all measures for balancing the rights of owners and users. While discussing this, Mr. Aggarwal voiced his support for the 1st compulsory license granted to Hyderabad based Natco Pharma for Bayer’s anti-cancer drug Sorefanib Tosylate (sold as Nexavar) in that it was not only TRIPS compliant but also supported the need for balancing access and innovation. In this regard, he also lauded the strategy adopted by Gilead Sciences’ for its Hepatitis C drug sold as Sovaldi, wherein Gilead had voluntarily licensed the patent thereof to several Indian generic manufacturers for manufacture and sale in developing countries. He stated that this was a great model of sustainable development and went to show that IP does not hinder access.
  6. Early education and awareness: IP has been included as a subject in the textbooks published by the National Council for Education Research and Training (“NCERT”). NCERT publishes text books which are used by all schools in India affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (“CBSE”). This should go a long way in increasing awareness and promoting the creation and respect for IPRs.

In view of the above, it is amply clear that IP protection and enforcement continue to remain high priority agenda items for the current government. This should help reinforce optimism in the present stakeholders.