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Mumbai: The government is throwing open the entire process of patents—from the filing of an application to the final decision rejecting or granting it—by putting it online in order to curb corruption and address charges of opacity.

The public will be able to access digital updates at each stage of file movement at the Indian patents and trademarks office—the Office of Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks—with all specifications, including patent examination (verification of the invention claims) reports, official remarks, reviews and corrections and the final decision, on the patent office’s website from September.

The move is aimed at introducing transparency in the functioning of the patent office and checking corruption.

India’s patent office has come under strong criticism from the industry and public for being opaque, with cases registered against its officials for bribery and unfair practices. The measure to promote transparency is expected to tackle the problem of undeserving products being granted patent rights by corrupt officials.

Patent applicants, including scientific institutions and research-based companies, from across the world have complained about the lack of transparency in the Indian patent system.

Since introducing a new product patent regime—bringing food, agriculture products and medicines under the ambit of intellectual property (IP) protection—in 2005, India has seen a record number of at least 1,500 across courts challenging the granting of IP rights.

The new digitally enabled information access system, introduced through an online link titled “stock and flow" on the patent office website, is the first in the world, said Amitabh Kant, secretary, department of industrial policy and promotions (DIPP), the Union government agency that is responsible of implementation of IP rights law in the country.

“Through this facility the work happening in the entire patent office is being thrown open to the world," he said.

“The stock and flow in the patent offices at different locations is shown on a real time basis on the official website. India patent office is the first among intellectual property offices across the world to achieve this ultimate transparency," Kant said while inaugurating the new online information access system in early September.

The department also recently started making available public information regarding lapsed and expired patents to help interested manufacturers who want to make generic products for the local market using those patented technologies.

Another online facility helps the public and the industry access the patent working details about the use and impact of patent grants in the local market. These details are submitted by the patent holders every year informing the patent office about their use of the market exclusivity right, including data on sales volume and value of the product, local manufacturing or import and the extent of market reach against the requirement among others.

“There is really no downside to a transparent process that is freely accessible to the public. The great benefit is that all the provisions of law, which until now have been buried under paper, will be able to work better in the new digital environment," said Murali Neelakantan, global general counsel, Cipla Ltd.

“It is in the interest of society that there is full disclosure of the patent, full disclosure being the very fundamental basis for the grant of the patent. The difficulties faced by researchers and patent agents in conducting a search in the current system are beneficial only to vested interests who are able to manipulate the paper based patent process," added Neelakantan.

Digitization of all aspects of the patent office will help researchers, inventors and others who wish to commercialize their products in the domestic market. For example, it will greatly reduce the risk of unintentional infringement or duplication of patent filing as companies and researchers will be able to ascertain the discoveries and innovations that have already been filed.

Similarly, scientists and companies can be sure that products that they are designing do not infringe patents.

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