Indian Patent offices are located, with four clearly specified jurisdictions, at New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
Since last few years enough efforts have been made towards overall capacity building initiatives, training of personnel and digitalizing the huge databank of these offices, with wide scale application of information technology (IT). As a result the patent offices are now having almost a centralized database to provide online services to the users in various areas of their operations. Users are now having the facilities of not only online patent search, but also for online patent applications.
More extensive IT applications are required to achieve greater system efficiency and transparency:
However, to bring in more efficiency and transparency in the system, there is a need to introduce appropriate IT applications in all the transactional interfaces between the patent office personnel and the patent applicants.
Still there are lots of grounds to cover:
Following are the key areas which should be taken care of by the Controller General of Patents, Design and Trade marks (CGPDTM) to make the IPOs more efficient, transparent and effective:
1. The Patent Manual, which provides essential guidelines to the patent examiners to bring in uniformity in the patent application examination process, is long overdue.
2. Many patent applicants feel that there is a need to include the International Non-proprietary Names (INN) in the title of pharmaceutical patent applications by the IPO.
3. Inadequate bandwidth makes the IT system slow, reducing its operational efficiency.
4. Electronic-filing of patent applications has been introduced, but there is no facility of paying the fees online by credit card. This facility should be introduced to make it more convenient for applicants to file patent applications online, adding more speed to the process.
5. Electronic prosecution of patent applications should be introduced to make the patent prosecution virtually paperless and more efficient.
6. Despite new technological measures most patent officers and also the public in general are still following the traditional method of filing the patent applications due to the ease and authenticity of filing records. To encourage applicants to file applications electronically, incentives such as reduced fees may be offered to those who file their applications electronically.
7. The IPOs should digitize all the physical files lying with them, so that file histories of each application are available online.
8. The Patent offices should have designated centres to provide assistance to applicants for filing or prosecuting applications.
9. Clear guidelines to be issued for conducting pre-grant and post grant opposition proceedings. Presently they are being handled in an arbitrary manner.
10. In order to introduce an efficient system of patent prosecution, it is recommended that the IPOs adjust patent term to compensate patentees for any delay in the grant of the patent that reduces the term of the patent, when such delay is caused solely by the IPOs.
11. Decision making and its communication to all concerned to be made faster at the IPOs. A system to be instituted for issuing the operative part of the decision first, followed by details of the decision taken. These should be advertised immediately in the technical journal to close proceedings at the earliest. Delays are leading to increase in the waiting period for the grant of patents, even if the proceedings have been concluded (opposition or otherwise) attracting serial and frivolous pre-grant oppositions. Such delays are also preventing the patent applicants to get their grants. As a result they are unable to initiate infringement proceedings against infringers quickly, defeating the very purpose of the patent system.
12. The timeline for an application, which will be taken up for examination, needs to be clearly defined. Currently, there is no time-line defined for taking up the applications for examination.
All concerned will feel happy, if the DIPP in general and the CGPDTM in particular take note of these suggestions and formalize a process within the IPOs to address these important issues.
Growing discontentment of the past, in several areas of operation within the IPOs, is now being effectively addressed. However, the system still warrants more capacity building to enable the IPOs provide world class services to the patent applicants. This process needs to be expedited to further enhance the credibility of the new IPR regime in India.
By Tapan Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.