Impatently patent, here’s how India’s research lags behind the world: Report

  • The Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications’ annual report sheds light on the paradigm on patent filing in India.
  • The US chipset manufacturer, Qualcomm, submitted 1,840 patents in 2016-17, where as all the domestic institutes, collectively, only account for 781 patents.
  • Of the 45,444 filed in India, 29% were filed by Indians while 71% were filed by foreign inventors and applicants.
The research and development sector in India has long been criticised for not doing enough and now, there are numbers to back up that claim. The issue doesn’t lie in the fact that India has less patents filed as compared to other nations, but in the fact that even within India, more patents are of foreign origins rather than domestic.

Just looking at the numbers published by the Office of Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications, of the 45,444 patents filed only 29.2% were filed by domestic applicants. The highest number of patents were actually filed by US firms with 8,981 licenses under their belt followed by Japan with 3,399 approved patents.

Another way to think about it is that, India has six major Indian institutes under their belt and they only managed to file 781 patents. In comparison, Qualcomm, the company that manufactures all of the Snapdragon chipsets, filed 1,840 patents all on its own in India. Even Samsung, for that matter, has filed 706 patents.

Explaining the disparity

The main defense against these statistics is that the huge disparity exists only because big firms want to prevent other firms from imitating their technology and introducing it in India. Let’s say that is true, there is no data to back it up. Even so, that can’t be the reason that 70.8% of patents are filed by foreign firms.

Especially since India isn’t short on talent.

But, that being said, the underlying problem seems to be the lack of an ecosystem that endorses good quality research. It’s turned into a competition over who can publish more papers in journals, real or fake.

That, in turn, triggers a chain reaction that feeds into the brain drain phenomenon, lack of a skill-ready labour force and universities being pegged as diploma mills rather than institutes that impart intelligence.

There’s no simple solution to this and the lag in the education sector has been a hotly debated topic ever since the surge of private schools and universities. Nonetheless, it’s no secret that there needs to be less talk and more action on this front to fix the predicament that India has wedged itself into.
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