|ET: Could you please clarify the terms IP, Patents, GI and Copyright?
BK: Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creation of mind and is predominantly intangible property. However it has various implications in terms of monetization and has tangible implications. The WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), negotiated during the 1986 to 1994 Uruguay Round, introduced intellectual property rules into the multilateral trading system for the first time. There are various types of IP and according to the TRIPS agreement the IP has been classified into - patents, industrial designs, TradeMarks, Copyright, geographical indications (GI), Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits, and Trade Secret.
A patent is an IP right relating to inventions and is the grant of exclusive right, for a limited period of time, provided by the Government of the patentee, in exchange of full disclosure of the invention, for excluding others, from making, using, selling, importing the patented product or process producing that product for those purposes.
GI is specific to a geography as the name suggests. GI is a name or sign used on certain products which correspond to a specific geographical location or origin (e.g. a town, region, or country). The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin. Examples for India are: Nasik Grapes, Puneri Pagadi, Mahabaleshwar Strawberry. Famous international GIs are Champagne, Tequila etc.
Copyright is an intellectual property form applicable to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete. Unlike patent, copyright pertains to the expression of idea and not the idea itself. Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work, exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time. Generally, it is "the right to copy", but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other related rights.
ET: What are the primary business-level changes being witnessed due to the increased awareness about IP in India? Please share some examples from your experience.
BK: The biggest primary business level change that we are witnessing is the increased spending amongst Indian businesses about IP due to increased awareness. There is still a long way to go, however, the momentum is building.
With M&A being on the rise for and by Indian companies and Indian conglomerates, the IP factor is taking its due position and many are thinking in that direction. This is very pertinent to the pharmaceutical sector in India.
Thirdly, with entrepreneurial activity spiking up, young companies are improving their chances of getting seed funding by virtue of showing a well thought out “business plan” and well developed IP strategy by building a robust portfolio.
Fourthly, some recent enforcement examples, giving boost to the faith in the business community that indeed in India IP rights can be meaningfully enforced is a key driver.
Last but not the least; IT companies are increasingly taking “sharing IP” as a factor into working out or negotiating contracts with end customers. In fact, there is a growing trend that Indian IT companies are accepting and even suggesting “stake in IP” in lieu of some payments for man-hours, which is a pivotal change.
ET: What is your view about the polarization of the global economic scenario by the ‘big’ corporations wielding their IP strength?
BK: It is indeed true that protecting and enforcing the monetization of an idea is fairly expensive in the developed world for smaller companies and they stand to lose out in the protracted battle on legal turf, and indeed the playing field is not level! There are two main aspects- one is the cost of actually protecting the IP, and second even more expensive and difficult is- identifying who is infringing on your IP in the world.
Having said that, there are ways and means that various creative smaller companies have devised and they do protect their IP but do monetization not through the court of law but by skilful and astute negotiations using the IP as a tool in their armour.
In the globalized and ever flatter world, with the WTO and various international agreements in place, governing many aspects of international trade and including many countries in the ambit of these treaties, the legal battle will be lengthy but in the long run, if the IP has been protected well by the lawyers, then the small companies stand to be rewarded.
We also need to keep in mind that IP is just one, though a key, factor in the broader scheme of things and there are many dimensions and facets to this scenario comprising but not limited to geo-political, economic, technology-related and even social among others.
ET: IP and the core ethics and values of an organisation are susceptible to be on a collision course; what according to you is the best way to handle such a situation? Please share some examples if possible.
BK: Organisations are a microcosm of the country they originate in and hence the values or/and ethics are ingrained in the very DNA of those organisations.
As an example, in India we believe that knowledge and pursuit of knowledge is a noble thing and cannot be limited by anyone. In fact, applying for a patent is taken as a “monopolistic” approach seen more as a vile and an anti-social behaviour. What we need to understand is that the inherent design of patent as it pertains to the US constitution is in fact, to the contrary, for “greater good” than a perceived capitalist monster that it may appear to be!
The best way to handle such scenarios is education and awareness. Awareness on the fact that protecting IP is, in the long run, good for the human society at large, in fact has time and again benefitted mankind since after the patent period is over, the knowledge is available to the masses. Taking example of the pharmaceutical sector, when the drugs, especially the blockbuster drugs are off patent regime, all and sundry can manufacture the drug and millions of patients stand to directly benefit to the point of being saved from otherwise certain death!
ET: In your opinion, how can Indian talent create globally valid IP?
BK: With the 20-20 vision that we keep harping on, we need to educate our youth about the importance of and the means of securing IP, and that too at a very early age. The Gen Y or the now clichéd “demographic dividend” is going to be a wasted resource if we are not going to protect the so called “jugaad” and “re-engineering” capability that Indians possess. The government, the private sector and more importantly the education sector needs to work within and in tandem to bring about this change, which is not only desirable but necessary. IP awareness and protection is no longer a luxury for Indian business, it is its basic tenet in the very near future.
Indian talent can really start with the protection of IP in India since it is relatively cheaper to do so in our country, but keep an eye out for opportunities for filing counterparts. This generally gives the inventor a time period to assess the commercial viability and its “price point” in the international market and then weigh the pros and cons of going for a patent filing in various geographies. Thus this enables only qualified and well thought out inventions to be then taken abroad for commercialisation/trading or licensing.
The key to all this is going to be increasing awareness and I don’t really see any short-cut to that! Like most other good things, IP also does not have short cuts!!
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