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For 'Make in India', first 'Innovate in India'

By Lalit Bhasin
May 07, 2015 10:40 IST
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Why a manufacturing push requires a modern intellectual property regime with global standards, asks Lalit Bhasin.

Undoubtedly, India has all the essential elements for a successful 'Make in India' programme - a large young and skilled workforce, an enabling economic environment and competitive wages.

Under the policies of the current government, India's manufacturing capacity for innovation and infrastructure is poised for phenomenal growth.  

There is empirical evidence positively linking patents, innovation, productivity and investment.

To realise the twin dreams of 'Innovate in India' and 'Make in India', the government needs to build a competitive, thriving environment by prioritising scientific research with a strong intellectual property (IP) system.

According to a recent article published in Business Standard, according to the 2015 IP index by US Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC), India continues to languish at the bottom - 29th out of 30 countries.

According to GIPC, economies with robust and higher IP protection have 50 per cent more innovative output and are 40 per cent more likely to invest in research and development.  

Thus, India attracts only 2.7 per cent of global R&D spend, while China attracts 17.5 per cent.

A robust research environment will encourage trade and investment in India, while fostering benefits such as high-paying skilled jobs, transfer of technology, medical knowledge, and early access to technology and new medicines.  

To promote the prime minister's 'Make in India' programme, central and state governments are taking significant measures to reform labour laws, regulatory regime et al.

But it is a well-known fact that modern domestic industries and entrepreneurship are unable to develop and thrive without a robust and sound technology, which is backed either by domestic R&D or transfer of technology and by proper training.  

IP in India is regulated by several legislations, rules and regulations under the jurisdiction of different ministries/departments.

As even reflected in the draft National IPR Policy, the statutes governing different kinds of IP in India are the Trade Marks Act, 1999, Patents Act, 1970 (last amended in 2005), Copyright Act, 1957 (last amended in 2012), Designs Act, 2000, Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection), 1999, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001, Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act, 2000 and Biological Diversity Act, 2002. 

Regrettably, there is no uniformity and harmonisation in the IP policies as the nodal department for trademarks, patents, designs and geographical indications is the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), which functions under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry; copyright is administered by the Ministry of Human Resource Development; semiconductor integrated circuits layout-designs is administered by the Department of Information Technology; plant varieties and farmers' rights is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture; and biological diversity is administered by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.  

The legal provisions need to be implemented harmoniously so as to avoid overlap, conflict or inconsistencies among them.  

To harmonise the laws and arrive at a national policy for streamlining of IP in India, the DIPP recently constituted an IPR Think Tank to draft the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy.

The objectives of the new IPR policy are to establish a dynamic, vibrant and balanced IP system in India to promote the following objectives:

foster innovation and creativity in a knowledge economy  

accelerate economic growth, employment and entrepreneurship  

enhance socio-cultural development  

protect public health, food security and the environment, among other areas of socio-economic importance  

The IPR Think Tank released its first draft report in December, recognising the fundamental and vital links between intellectual property, promotion, innovation and the successful development of innovative products.

The draft policy proposes to reach out to artists, small and medium scale businesses, farmers, corporate entities, scientists and raise public awareness of the benefits of IP for promoting creations, improve the associated legal infrastructure and related services, while emphasising the development of human capital to achieve India's long-term goals. 

It seems a significant step towards predictability and transparency in India's IPR regime.  

The challenge, however, lies in the effective implementation.  

Additionally, the US and India are committed to establishing an annual high-level intellectual property working group with appropriate decision-making and technical-level meetings as part of the Trade Policy Forum.

A high-level IP working group met in November 2014 for the first time in four years.  

To increase patent protection to global standards, it is necessary that innovations arising out of dedicated R&D are promoted and given due recognition, and are adequately protected through patents, designs, copyrights and other IPs so as to create certainty in the minds of innovators and increase investor confidence.  

The Indian pharmaceutical industry needs to be ambitious - move from being mere generic manufacturers to forward-looking, research-based companies.

The 'Make in India' vision cannot survive in the long-term without concrete measures to build a concurrent 'Create in India' movement.  

There are unmet medical needs and these therapeutic areas need to be addressed with innovation-driven cures. And innovation can be ushered in through a robust IP regime.

 Photograph: Reuters

Lalit Bhasin is president, Society of Indian Law Firms

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