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Mumbai: The bamboo splint making machine, developed by two inventors in Mizoram, revolutionized the traditional bamboo industry in India’s North-Eastern states. The machine, which makes incense sticks from bamboo is an alternative to the tedious, risky and time-consuming conventional method used by locals who can’t afford the electric machines used by large units.

Yet, the splint machine can’t be patented.

Nor can the natural water cooler, which cools water naturally based on the principle of heat exchange.

There are hundreds, even thousands, of such innovations and inventions—and none can be patented under the current IP, or Intellectual Property, regime in India.

The new National Intellectual Property Rights policy seeks to change that. Its first draft stresses the need to create a new IP law that can facilitate the patenting of the large number of innovative utilitarian inventions that have been invented or are in use in India.

“An IP protection, which is different from the pure discovery patents as laid out in the current IPR law, would encourage utility-oriented research work and make a big impact in India’s innovation effort," says T.C. James, director, National Intellectual Property Organization, a non-governmental organization promoting India’s IP initiatives, and former director at the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

The think tank formed by the government under former IPAB (Intellectual Property Appellate Board) chairman justice Prabha Sridevan in November, which is behind the National Intellectual Property Rights policy also believes that patenting such innovations will help India improve its score in global innovation indices.

India ranked 76th in the annual Global Innovation Index (GII) survey for 2014. The annual ranking jointly published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), surveys 143 countries around the world, using 81 indicators to gauge innovation capabilities and results.

India, which slipped from 66th (2013) was the worst performer among BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). China was the best, at 29, an improvement of six places.

“Utility patents or protection of grassroots innovation have been an established system in many other countries, including developed economies as they form a key part of the scientific and economic development." added James.

The draft, reviewed by Mint, was released in the last week of December by DIPP, which oversees the implementation of IPR laws and regulations in India. The national IPR policy draft has also mentioned the need for reforms in several other areas, including administration, legal and legislative framework, inter-ministerial coordination, enforcement and commercialization of IP, and development of human capital.

The think tank, which comprises former deputy director general of WIPO Narendra K. Sabharwal, senior IP lawyers Pratibha M. Singh and Punita Bhargava, Unnat Pandit, IP head of Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd, and Rajeev Sreenivasan, director, Asian School of Business, believes that a base line survey using research and data from all stakeholders is desirable for a comprehensive strategy to augment the creation of IP assets from the so-called utility models.

“This will help identify the actual, potential and untapped areas of creativity and innovation and facilitate preparation of focused strategy to channelize efforts and financial resources where they are needed," the policy document says.

The profile of IP filings, registrations and grants is one of the parameters, though not the only one, to assess the current status and potential of IP creation in a country, says the draft.

The number of patent filings in India has increased in the last few years, but the percentage of filings by Indians is relatively low. The number of design applications filed is nowhere near the potential that India has, given its vast pool of designers, artisans and artists, say experts. They add that geographical indications (GIs) is an area of strength and optimism for India where it has accorded protection to a number of manufactured products, especially in the informal sector. Data from the office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks shows that patent grants to Indian inventions grew 45% during 2002 to 2013, while the grants for foreign inventions grew almost 300%.

“There is considerable unexplored potential for developing, promoting and utilizing traditional knowledge, which is a unique endowment of India. In each of the above areas, concerted efforts and targeted measures will help Indian creators and innovators to significantly augment generation of IP," the draft policy says.

India’s first IPR policy draft also mentions the country’s large number of scientists and technologists.

“In several sectors, they have created considerable technological output without commensurate IP generation. This talent pool is spread over R&D institutions, large, medium and small enterprises, universities and technical institutes. It is necessary to come up with targeted programmes to encourage them to generate IPRs and utilize them in developing new technologies, products and solutions particularly in areas of national priority," it said.

The draft policy has been put up at the DIPP website for discussion till 31 January.

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