The Planning Commission has proposed a project to digitize all of the country’s patent data in the 11th Plan (2007-2012) as part of the patent office modernization programme.Industry lobbies, patent lawyers and patient groups have for long been appealing for transparency in the Indian patent system.“...this project is expected to be completed by end of 2008,” the department of industrial policy and promotion, or DIPP, an arm of the Union commerce ministry, said in a letter to one of these groups
On the Web: Department of industrial policy and promotion director T.C. James says around 45,000 records are already available online
Once completed, records of all the 214,103 patents granted in India till date will be available with details on the website of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks. About 45,000 records are already available online, and the rest will be incorporated soon, T.C. James, director, DIPP, said in the letter.As reported by on 24 December, a group of industry representatives, patent experts, lawyers and patient groups had urged for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervention in creating a system to make information on patents, their filings and grants public.
The plea, signed by about 150 people, had requested Singh to increase transparency and accountability at Indian patent offices by creating an online database, complete with the official decisions and examination details. Currently, grants are notified in the journal of patent offices only in the form of bibliography and abstracts. Patent experts say these abstracts are not of much help as they do not contain details of the patents, which is essential for filing opposition or raising objections. “Another key demand was to provide access to information on how patent grant or rejection decisions are made,” said Shamnad Basheer, a leading patent lawyer and research associate at the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre.
Basheer, who had initiated one of the campaigns for transparency in the Indian patent system, said examination reports, file notings and comments by patent officials should be made public to reduce the scope forcorruption. However, DIPP has not made any headway on this demand. The department has clarified in its letter that as per law, “the reports of the examiners to the controller are not open to public inspections. They are also not liable to production or inspection in any legal proceeding unless the court certifies that the production or inspection is desirable in the interests of justice and ought to be allowed.”
But it has mentioned that “the processes of establishment of database of all granted patents and making of other records and documents easily accessible to public are being closely monitored by the ministry now”. In January, India’s National Knowledge Commission—an advisory body to the Prime Minister—had recommended that all patent applications should be released with complete details to give sufficient opportunity for any pre-grant objections.
The commission had also suggested providing electronic access in real time to all steps of a patent application—from detailed patent descriptions, examination reports at each stage to amendments introduced at various points—to maintain complete transparency in the system.