Sree Narayana Guru College of Law
Sree Narayana Guru College of Law
There is hardly any aspect of our lives that is not affected by Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): be it a new medicines that you buy, (the price and availability are controlled by their patent status); the motor bike that you ride on (even the bore size of that tiny orifice through which fuel:air mixture is injected into the engine cylinder is controlled by patents); the car that you drive (different engine components, the break, the clutch, and even the look of the car is covered by IPR); the water filter that you use at home (there was a patent litigation in India between two water filter makers recently); the book chapter you photocopied last time (copy right) and so on. Industries make large budgetary allocation to acquire and protect IP rights. The hybrid car Prius is protected by over 2000 patents; Toyota, the manufacturer, seems to have engaged more patent attorneys than engineers to design this car.
The patent system followed in India till the year 1970 was a colonial legacy. Using the provisions of the product patent regime prevalent at that time, the multinational pharma companies could prevent introduction of less expensive forms of medicine by Indian Companies. The Indian Patent Act of 1970 was passed by the Parliament in 1972. One important feature of the Act was that it did not allow product patents. This permitted the Indian scientists to copy newly discovered drug molecules by reverse engineering and market them in India as branded generics at very low price. This helped the Indian pharmaceutical Industry to grow to be the fourth largest pharma market in the world in terms of prescriptions. Besides, the market share in India of Indian-owned pharma companies grew from 32% in 1970 to 77% by the year 2004.
For achieving TRIPS-compliance, the Indian Patent Act of 1970 was amended in 2005 to approve product patents once again. The immediate fall-out of this new product patent regime was that Indian companies had to make sure that their products are not infringing on the patents filed in India by innovator companies. The major Indian pharma companies, whose phenomenal growth was achieved mainly through exporting bulk drugs and formulations to other countries, are now required to make sure that their products are manufactured through non-infringing routes. In the light of these developments, today all major pharma, chemical and agrochemical companies have either set up their own patent cells or they out-source their work to Patent Law firms. This urgent need to set up patent cells led to a scarcity in trained IPR professionals.
Companies which have their own R & D for developing new drugs, chemicals or agrochemicals have to file patents to protect their new inventions. Apart from the drug and chemical industries, others ranging from engineering and automobile industries (patents, industrial designs, trademarks) to music and film industries (copy rights, trademarks) have to depend upon IPR expertise. The total number of patents granted by India increased from 1911 during 2004-05 to 16061 during 2008-09. The largest number of patents was filed in the field of engineering (27.3%), followed by Pharma-Biotech Industries (14.8%), Chemical Industry (14.8%) and Electronics Industry (11.9%). During 2008-09, a total of 102257 trade marks were registered in India. These data attests to the value of acquiring IPR expertise in enhancing one?s career prospects.
Medium size companies may not have their own IPR cell. Such companies outsource their work to IPR Consultants, making IP consultancy an important growth segment. IP litigation is another growth segment in corporate law today. It is estimated to be 15% of the corporate law business in India. Established law firms are enjoying considerable growth through IPR litigation. Because of this, more fresh graduates are interested in practising IP law than, say two or three years ago.
Though pharma industry is the biggest noise maker in patent field, the largest number of patents is filed by the engineering, electronic and software industries. Thus in 2009, IBM topped the list of patent leaders by obtaining 4914 patents with Microsoft in the third position with 2906 patents. In India, engineering companies like GE in Bangalore, automobile companies and steel industries are looking for engineering graduates with IPR expertise.
In short, obtaining in-depth training in IPR is an excellent option for fresh graduates to improve their employability and those who are in employment to improve their career prospects.