Patent backlogs slow down start-ups

By: Bharath Manjesh

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Bangalore, Oct 6, 2017: India experienced a 22 per cent decline in patent applications filed in the financial year of 2016-17 against the previous year.
           
The numbers published on the Indian Patent Office’s patent search engine show that only 31,167 patent applications were published in the financial year of 2016-17 compared to 40,095 applications published in 2015-16. That is a 22 per cent decline between April and March, year-on-year.

Patent seekers looking to file in India could be getting discouraged by the large backlog of pending patents that have built up over the years. “The Indian Patent Office’s patent examination process shouldn’t take more than three years. But, patent seekers in India tend to shy away after finding out they have to wait for six to seven years to have a patent granted,” explained Syed Murtaza, an agent at IPMetrix, a patent agency in Bangalore. “The backlog is huge and the patent office is slow in clearing it. Besides, there’s no provision to question the patent office as to what is taking them so long,” he added.

Patent seekers also see a disparity in the time taken for the different steps in the patent examination process. While publishing the patent—which is laying a claim in simple terms—takes just a few months at the most, it could take three to seven years to find out if the patent will be granted or not. “The whole filing and publishing process took just a month”, recalled Dhanush Manangi, a recent graduate from Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in Bangalore, who applied for a patent on a fire surveillance drone he built with his classmates. “We turned in our paperwork, paid the charges, and just a month later the Head of Department at my college got an email that our patent has been published,” he explained. But, it could take anywhere between three to six years before Dhanush finds out the fate of his patent application.

Trends in patent applications are used as a gauge to indicate upward and downward shifts in innovation. In the past few months, the Indian Patent Office has ramped up efforts to clear the backlog to pave the way for faster innovation. “The patent office is trying to recruit more examiners and get rid of the backlog as soon as possible. The situation has improved greatly under the StartUp India scheme”, said Nishant Kewalramani, a patent agent at Ediplis Counsels, a patent agency in Bangalore.

“A lot of applications come from startups these days. Hot areas such as ‘Internet of Things’ and ‘Deep Learning’ are major patent drivers in startups”, pointed out, Syed Murtaza. “But even among startups, a bulk of the applications come from those looking to do business in the US markets and open a namesake subsidiary in India to get venture capital funding—which requires an Indian patent. But, ultimately, the government needs to provide a quick patenting process to realize the full potential of these innovations,” he added.

 
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