Data shared by the government indicates that the number of patents, trademarks, and other types of IP-related applications has increased in India in recent years. Data also indicates the speedy disposal of these applications. However, India still lags behind China and many other leading nations on this front.
WIPO’s (World Intellectual Property Organization) World Intellectual Property Indicators-2020 report states China to be the leading country with the highest number of Patents filed in 2019 followed by the USA. China also leads in the number of Trademarks filed. India is ranked 10th globally in the number of Patents filed and 8th in terms of trademarks. In terms of absolute numbers, China is way ahead of other countries. In fact, the number of Patents filed by China in 2019 is more than double the number filed by the second-placed USA. The gap with other countries much wider in the case of Trademarks, with China filing more than half of the world’s trademarks in 2019.
While serving the main purpose of protecting the creativity, Intellectual property rights, etc. of the inventor/creator, Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, etc. also offer a distinct economic advantage. In the age of globalization, these are seen as a reflection of a country’s impetus on innovation and also aids in development in terms of technological progress and providing an edge internationally. While India’s numbers are comparatively lower than other leading countries in the world, the data released by Intellectual Property India (IPI) indicates an improvement in recent years.
Patent applications examined increased by nearly 4 times in past 6 years
The Patents Act 1970 & Patent Rules, 2003 govern the Patent system in India. Amendments including – Patent (Amendment) Act, 2005 and the ones made to Patent rules in 2016, 2017 & 2019 have been instrumental in bringing in changes to the Patent system in the country in tune with the changing environment. The key purpose of these amendments is to bring in efficiency in the procedures followed for application, review, and disposal of the patents filed.
The summary published by IPI, further mentions the improvements made in the process. This includes modernization of the IP offices where-in technology is augmented for IT-enabled IP offices (e-filing, paperless electronic process, etc.) across the country. There is an upscaling of the manpower as well. By the end of 2014-15, there were 183 examiners of Patents, which increased to 610 as of May 2020. Similarly, the number of Controllers for Patents increased from 89 to 245 during the same period. Removal of backlog and speedy examination & disposal of applications is cited for the augmentation of Manpower.
This increase in manpower is reflected in the trend in the number of patents filed, examined & disposed. Creating awareness & simplifying the filing process seems to have had a positive impact on the overall number of patents filed. In the year 2014-15, a total of 42.7 thousand patent applications were filed which increased to 56.2 thousand in 2019-20. The major improvement though is observed in the numbers relating to Patents examined, granted, and disposed.
- No. of patents examined in 2014-15 were 22.6 thousand, which increased to more than 80 thousand in 2019-20. However, this number is less than the patent applications examined in 2018-19 when 85.4 thousand applications were examined.
- Around 5.9 thousand patents were granted in 2014-15, which has increased by around four times to 24.9 thousand in 2019-20.
- A significant improvement is also observed in the total number of patent applications disposed. A total of 55.9 thousand applications were disposed in 2019-20 compared to 14.3 thousand in 2014-15.
The increase in the number of patent applications examined indicates improvement in the operational efficiency and the impact of increased manpower.
Increase in Trademarks Examined has contributed towards an increase in the disposals
IPI’s summary highlights the replacement of 74 forms used in an application for Trademarks with 8 consolidated forms and also providing one single form for all types of trademarks. Furthermore, there is also an increase in the manpower – Examiners & Senior examiners increased to 181 in 2019-20 compared to 64 in 2014-15. Similarly, there is also an increase in the registrars during this period from 13 to 22. However, the sanctioned number of registrars is 54, indicating that even with the increased strength, less than half the sanctioned posts are filled up.
The summary also points to improvements made in the trademark process:
- The period of trademark application reduced to less than 30 days compared to 13 months earlier.
- Registration of Trademark done within 6 months compared to 3-5 years as required earlier.
The data provided by IPI, in its summary as well as the Annual reports indicate a marked improvement in the numbers. During 2016-17, around 5.32 lakh Trademark applications were examined, nearly twice the number examined in 2015-16. This has helped in reducing the backlog and increasing the disposal of pending applications. The number of applications disposed during 2016-17 was around 2.9 lakhs compared to 1.16 lakh in 2015-16. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of trademarks registered with 2.5 lakh registrations during 2016-17 compared to just around 65 thousand in 2015-16. An average of 3 lakh Trademark applications was registered in each of the last three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
The number of Trademarks examined & disposed continues to be higher in the ensuing years resulting in maintaining the higher trademark registration numbers. However, there is a slight decline in the number of Trademarks Disposed & Registered in 2019-20 compared to the previous year. It remains to be seen if this decline is due to the higher numbers in previous years or a trend that will be visible even in the coming years.
Disposal of Application for Designs doubled in the period 2014-20
Similar to the trend observed in the case of Patents & Trademarks, there is a sharp increase in the number of applications examined during 2016-17, even in the case of Industrial Designs. In 2015-16, only around 7.5 thousand applications were examined which increased to around 11.8 thousand in 2016-17 and is on an upward curve since then.
The increase in the number of design applications being examined has also contributed to an increase in the design applications being disposed of and registered. Introduction of e-filing of designs during the later part of 2015-16 could have contributed towards the increase in the number of Design applications being filed.
A significant increase in the number of applications for Copyrights during 2016-17 & the following years has contributed towards the increased disposal and registration of a higher number of copyrights in the last four years.
A major portion of the Patents filed in India are non-resident filings
The increase in the applications and disposal of Patents, Trademarks, designs, etc. over the recent years is a significant development. The data clearly indicates a vast improvement in the entire process in India.
The factors contributing towards the same are manifold. The increase in efficiency has enabled quicker processing thereby not only reducing the backlogs but also encouraging new filings. The efforts in increasing IP awareness as elucidated in the IPI’s summary and the various annual reports also seem to have contributed towards increased filings.
However, when compared to global numbers, India still is far behind. As per WIPO’s World Intellectual Property Indicators 2020 report, around 14 lakh patent applications were filed in China in 2019, whereas India which is ranked 10th globally had around 53 thousand patent applications filed. With regards to Trademarks, China which is the global leader has filed around 78 lakh trademark applications globally whereas 3.67 lakh trademark applications were filed in India in 2019.
Apart from China & USA, which are have large & developed economies than that of India, India also lags behind few other countries like – Germany, Japan, France, South Korea, United Kingdom, etc.
Apart from the comparatively lower numbers, another important aspect to consider is the origin of the application. As per WIPO’s data, out of the around 53 thousand patent applications filed in India, 19 thousand are by residents and 34 thousand are by non-residents. This information is further corroborated by the data available in Annual Reports of IPI. In 2018-19, out of around 50 thousand patent applications, around 17 thousand are by Indians, and the rest of them by non-residents of various categories. However, it has to be noted that there is a gradual increase in the applications filed by Indians. In the case of China, Japan, South Korea, etc., domestic applications occupy a larger share.
Overall, although India is on the right track with respect to the filings & processing of Patents & other IP applications, more needs to be done in creating an environment to encourage innovation which will, in turn, result in a greater number of Indians applying for various IP.
Featured Image: Number of patents from India