Q&A – A Guide To The India IP Landscape

India is increasingly being recognised as a global innovator being in the top 50 innovating countries in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s Global Innovation Index (GII). However, The Economic Survey of the Indian Ministry of Finance published in 2021 shows that the majority of patent applications in India come from non-residents. Are you expecting initiatives from the Indian government to boost national R&D efforts?

You are right, the Indian Government is concerned that Indian residents file only 34% of patents, and foreign companies file the rest. The India economic survey of 2021 published by the Ministry of Finance highlighted this fact to explain that self-reliance and economic growth are linked to accelerating innovation. The Economic Survey also highlighted how China through a 15-year “Medium to Long Term Plan (MLP) for the development of Science and Technology” became an “innovation-oriented society”. The Indian Government has in the last ten years taken several initiatives to encourage entrepreneurs, start-ups and small to medium enterprises to focus on innovation. A few schemes floated by the Government to promote innovation are listed below:

  • ATAL Innovation Mission – The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is a flagship initiative set up by NITI Aayog to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the length and breadth of the country.
  • Ambedkar Social Innovation Incubation Mission (ASIIM) – ASIM is a Venture Capital Fund for a particular group of individuals termed Scheduled Castes (SC) to promote innovation and enterprise among SC students studying in higher educational institutions.
  • National Initiative for Development and Harnessing Innovations – National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI) is an umbrella programme conceived and developed by the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Division, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, for nurturing ideas and innovations (knowledge-based and technology-driven) into successful start-ups.
  • New Gen Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centre (New Gen IEDC) – The Department of Science and Technology has initiated this programme. New Gen IEDC has a mission to promote knowledge-based and technology-driven start-ups by harnessing young minds and their innovation potential in an academic environment.
  • Software Technology Park (STP) Scheme – This scheme is a 100 percent Export Oriented Scheme for the development and export of computer software, including export of professional services using communication links or physical media.
  • Support for International Patent Protection in Electronics & Information Technology (SIP-EIT) – This is a scheme to provide financial support to MSMEs and Technology Start-up units for international patent filing, to encourage further innovation and recognize the value and capabilities of global IP and capture growth opportunities in the ICTE sector.

Also, recently the Indian Government during the COVID phase, realized that India is heavily dependent on imports in specific sectors and needs to attract manufacturing activity. Therefore, to harness innovation, the Government has put together production-linked incentive schemes in industries such as renewable energy, automobiles, telecom, pharmaceuticals, and others to attract investment for setting up manufacturing unitsCu. The incentive-linked plans draw well-known international companies to set up production units in India to manufacture goods for domestic sale and export from India in 13 sectors. The Government of India envisages that with the setting up of these large-scale manufacturing units, employment will increase in technology sectors. There would be more investment in R&D locally which will promote innovation culture.

Recently, Global Innovation Index has ranked India as 46th most innovative economy and India has moved four places in one year. India had attributed its improved performance to the catalyst role played by the Department of Atomic Energy, Science and Technology, Biotechnology and Space. The consistently growing innovation initiatives and rise in the ranking in the innovation index is indicative that the Government is serious about R&D efforts and building an Innovation culture in India.

Data, digital, and AI as some of the hot topics. How do law firms navigate this rapidly changing landscape associated with an increasing number of innovations?

Digital, data, and AI are hot topics for every economy, including Indian businesses. The law firms have twin challenges in these areas. Firstly, to get a deep understanding and knowledge of the evolving landscapes to advise their clients, how best to navigate the data protection regime and set up a digital strategy for their clients. The IP and Technology issues that arise with the incorporation of AI applications into business processes by the companies is another area that legal professionals are increasingly being approached by the businesses to assist in navigating the landscape.

Further, there are employment and ethical issues that arise with the use of AI to build efficiencies. At the same time, the challenge for lawyers comes from the use of AI and data analytics in the legal profession. Currently, the lawyers and legal professionals are using AI to a limited extent in servicing their clients. On the other hand, AI is rapidly disrupting the legal system. As businesses demand more certainty in terms of the outcome of any dispute, the use of AI in dispute resolution will become common. Overall, it is widely acknowledged that AI systems, cognitive technology, and data analytics have many benefits. Failure to use them could quickly put many start-ups, business executives, and legal professionals out of the market.

What sectors in India do you think will be the growth areas for patent filing? And Trademark filing?

Artificial Intelligence, including Machine / Deep Learning, Robotics, Technologies related to Green and Clean Energy, Driverless Vehicles, Intelligent Products based on the Internet of Things, Nanotechnology, and Materials science are likely to be the growth areas for Patent filings.

For Trademarks, Healthcare, Cosmetics, Consumer electronics, Computing devices, FMCG, and services related to these industries are likely to be the growth areas

The number of Artificial Intelligence patent applications from India is on par with many powerful countries. Computing, business, telecommunications, and life sciences account for more than 70 percent of India’s AI patents. Do you see this trend continuing in the near future?

We will continue to see growth in this area in India. Artificial Intelligence continues to evolve and is expected to revolutionize the existing process and technologies. Therefore, the growth trend in this area for Patent filings is expected to see an upward trend. In the future, we believe that all the conventional processes and technologies employed in healthcare, education, and agriculture will be combined or supported with AI. Thus, innovation leading to a higher number of Patent applications being filed is here to stay.

With technology developing so quickly and being adapted in all business processes in search of more efficiency, how has your role as a lawyer changed?

How have client legal needs and expectations changed as a result? How have you prepared your practice to meet these ever-evolving client needs?

When we set up RNA in the year 2004, we were very clear that technology would be a significant differentiator for the firm. As a result, we invested quite heavily into creating an integrated software system or an Enterprise Resource Planning Software that can bring together all service areas – right from opening a new matter file, the client set up, to making a bespoke database whereby we can monitor the progress of the matters and update our clients. Further, it would serve as a billing platform by integrating with the fee recording system.

Overall, our system, which continues to evolve, performs CRM functions, generates MIS reports, and acts as a client service platform. The firm has always worked on adopting technology changes and believes that the technology will help us in bringing more efficiency and transparency to our working.

The legal practice in the last ten years, I would say not only in India but also globally, has gone through a sea change. Technology has become sort of a disruptor. We are seeing many non-legal service providers entering into the IP arena to offer services that were earlier being handled by the IP boutique firms/ lawyers. For example, patent annuities, trademark renewals, recording assignments. In all these areas, technology is being used by several global players to manage these services efficiently and transparently at a lower cost. Technology is being used as an interface to provide better services. Further, technology has made IP owners believe that services are more templated or commoditized and should be offered at a lower cost. Therefore, our role as lawyers have become more of a consultant, as a trusted advisor for the clients. To not only lay down the strategy in terms of their business needs but also its implementation. Whether it is how to capture your innovation, protect them through patent filing, or as a trade secret. And of course, with information technology becoming ubiquitous, IP and IT issues are becoming intertwined. The rise of digital and social media platforms means that we are now dealing with a host of IT legal issues that interface with IP issues.

We have always believed that technology has to be fully embraced to provide transparent and efficient service to our clients. Therefore, we not only invest in upgrading our databases and document management systems but also in our people. We have regular internal sessions on various IP and technology issues where external and internal speakers present their views on changes in laws and recent developments. We also work with our team to make them aware that the current work they are handling will dramatically change in the next three years. Therefore, they need to upgrade their technical skills and be mentally strong to embrace the changes. Thus, as a firm, we have always felt that technology as a change mechanism is here to stay.

Where do you see IP having the most impact in the near future in Asia, and in particular in your jurisdiction?

India has a large population, and obviously, there is a lack of infrastructure to fulfil the aspirations of large and growing young population. Therefore, businesses with strong IP in the areas that impact the day-to-day lives of citizens, whether it is transport, clean energy or food, will be in demand. I believe companies with IP and technology combination that can provide solutions to overcome the infrastructure barriers will be the ones making the most impact.

We have several examples of unicorns emerging in India start-up space that deploy IP and technology to offer solutions in areas impacted by lack of infrastructure. The health industry is another important sector that is IP intensive and will significantly impact the lives of Indian citizens in near future. The IP-focused company in the health sector, whether in pharmaceutical manufacturing, medical devices, hospitals, healthcare centres, will be in good demand.

Overall, companies with IP and technology that can better help manage people’s well-being and fill the gap in trained medical staff will significantly impact the business environment.

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