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In order to improve the long and tedious process of patent registration in India, the government has announced amendments in the existing patent laws and introduced new measures making the process faster and cheaper for individuals and companies.

The government has opened a special window to process patent applications within 6 to 12 months as against the normal route which takes 5 to 7 years. It is similar to a ‘Tatkal’ window system, which will allow startups and companies to request fast examination of their patent applications, according to Mint.

Expedited examination

According to the notification by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the fast track option for ‘expedited examination’ will be available on the condition that applicants have chosen India as the competent International Search Authority (ISA) or International Preliminary Examining Authorities (IPEA) in the corresponding international application and thereby recognising India as the first destination for filing the patent application. There are 18 patent offices classified as ISA or IPEA in the world.

According to Rajiv Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, DIPP, this will reduce the number of patent applications which are first filed in other countries and later moved to India. “The move is aimed at popularising India as a patent filing hub so that more companies file applications in India. Now many applications for the initial examination are filed abroad, in places like Europe, the US or Japan,” Aggarwal said, according to the TechPortal.

But the Controller General of Patents Designs and Trademarks will only take up a limited number of applications under the fast-track route in one year. And though, the number has not been specified, the fast-track facility will be available for start-ups set up anywhere in the world if they satisfy the definition of a start-up by DIPP.

According to the notification, the definition for start-ups includes any entity (Private Limited company or registered partnership firm or Limited Liability Partnership) that has been set up for less than five years and whose turnover is less than Rs 25 crore. This definition will also be applicable to foreign start-ups. A major change in the rule is the fact that startups have been defined as ‘individual persons’ instead of companies in the latest amendment, according to the Economic Times.

At present, it takes the Indian patent office 5-7 years to do the first examination after an applicant has filed the ‘request for examination’. Based on the questions or contests by other parties, the patent office then gives 12 months to respond to the original applicant after which it either grants or rejects the patent. The final award of patent depends on how soon the applicant responds to the queries. The centre has also announced that it is trying to bring down the first examination period to 18 months by March 2018 for applications filed through the normal route.

The time to be taken to complete the first examination has not been specified in the amended rules. It will be separately notified through an executive order, according to the report.

Other amendments

Under the ‘expedited examination’ route, the fees for individuals and start-ups have been fixed at Rs 8,000, while for small firms it is Rs 25,000 and for large companies, the fee is Rs 60,000. This will bring down patent fees and make them eligible for 80% rebate as per the startup action plan. However, under normal circumstances, initial patent filing cost ranges between Rs 1,600 and Rs 8,800.

The amended rules also allow refund of fees in case patent applications are withdrawn. They provide for full refund of patent application fees and refund of 90% of the fee paid for ‘request for examination’. Usually, it ranges between Rs 4,000 and Rs 60,000 which may rise, depending on the number of pages.

Commenting on the same, Aggarwal said, “This will help unclog the queue as a lot of applicants do not withdraw a patent despite knowing the application is not commercially viable, solely because of the charges involved.” India has over 2.37000 patents which are pending to be approved out of which many may not be commercially viable but are not withdrawn due to charges associated with it.

Additionally, the latest amendments have also taken care of patent disputes and have limited the number of adjournments in court regarding a patent dispute to two times with a maximum period of 30 days each.

Past developments

Indian firms and research organizations filed 1,423 patent applications in 2015, 1,428 in 2014 and 1,320 in 2013, according to Mint. The US, Japan, China and South Korea remain the major drivers of international patent activity, the report said.

Ever since the Startup India inititave was launched in January this year, there have been innumerable policies by various departments of government and funding agencies, in order to provide an easy environment for the startups to do business.

Last week, the government unveiled the national intellectual property rights (IPR) policy to focus on issues like expediting approval processes involving patents or trademarks and consolidating institutional mechanisms to create a robust IPR eco-system, according to the Business Standard.

Earlier this year, DIPP had unveiled a portal and an app for Indian startups to receive latest updates on notifications and circulars issued by government and different funding agencies.

The government had also announced various tax benefits proposed under the Finance Bill 2016 for the startups.