Patent filings to be available free online from next year

Patent filings to be available free online from next year

New Delhi: Filings for approved Indian patents will be digitized by 2008 and thereafter made available online, free of cost, said a senior official at the department of industrial policy & promotion, requesting anonymity.

The new initiative is part of the second phase of modernization of the patent office, the official said. Complete applications of patents granted after 2006 will be available in the next few months.

In the first phase, which concluded this July, the government introduced e-filing facilities that allowed an aspirant patentee to register his application online instead of visiting the patent offices.

Currently, complete information on a patent granted in the country can be accessed through photocopied documents through a patent office or from private databases, both of which entail a charge.

Access to patent documents is vital, since it is only after perusal of these documents that other companies and individuals will often decide to proceed with their own filing for a patent. The minimum cost of filing a patent application is Rs5,000 for companies and Rs1,500 for individuals. This could, however, be higher, depending on the complexity of the patent claim.

Screening for prior patents is “a long process", says Arun Jawar, research and development head for Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. “Because there’s no immediately searchable online database for Indian patents, searching for them in India takes the longest time. So the government’s move is certainly welcome."

The patenting procedure here takes a minimum of two years and, according to Jawar, could cost up to Rs5 lakh, including lawyers’ fees. A successful Indian patent is published in the Patent Office Journal, which can be freely accessed online, but offers very little information.

Some patent lawyers welcomed the idea.

“As of now, my colleagues have to either search private databases or visit the patent offices and sift through applications," notes Neil Mason, an intellectual property expert and managing partner, Mason and Associates. “All these add to delayed processing."

The Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council, a government organization, maintains a database called Ekaswa.

Though it offers free patent searches, it is restricted to universities and government research organizations. As of now, the cost of perusing a single application will cost the user scanning charges per page and an extra 15% service charge, according to information on the council’s website.

Detailed patent searches are also useful to research organizations to find which niche in a specific research area could be exploited to develop patentable products.

“For instance, a pharmaceutical company might, on the basis of patent searches, figure out what are the known methods that exist to develop a particular molecule and what approaches may be explored," said Dileep Singh, a biotechnology professor at the Delhi university’s microbiology department.

“The most important part of the patent is the list of claims made by an inventor," said Mason, “but now you can only see an abstract, which merely summarizes a patent claim. Nothing concrete can be derived out of it."