Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

Indian National Intellectual Property Rights Policy, 2016: Some Highlights

By Anasua Mukherjee Das

On 12 May 2016, the Indian government approved its first ever National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy1. This National Policy was drafted by an independent IPR Think Tank that consisted of six members, chaired by Justice (retired) Prabha Sridevan. A draft Policy was prepared after consultation with the IP experts, IP lawyers, academics, scientists, activists, and user groups, which was released on 19th December 2014 for public comments. After gathering inputs at the national and state-level against the circulated draft, the IPR Think Tank finalized the policy. The Union Cabinet finally approved the National Policy in May 2016. The main focus of this policy is given to the slogan of “Creative India, Innovative India”, which subsequently is aligned to different government initiatives and missions in recent times that include ‘Atal Innovation Mission’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Start-Up India’, and ‘Stand-Up India’ promoting creativity, innovation and youth-led entrepreneurship in the country.

The guiding principles of the Policy are explicitly elaborated in its Vision and Mission statements. The stated Vision of this Policy is: “An India where creativity and innovation are stimulated by Intellectual Property for the benefit of all; an India where intellectual property promotes advancement in science and technology, arts and culture, traditional knowledge and biodiversity resources; an India where knowledge is the main driver of development, and knowledge owned is transformed into knowledge shared”. While, the stated Mission of the Policy is to: “Stimulate a dynamic, vibrant and balanced intellectual property rights system in India and to: (a) foster creativity and innovation and thereby, promote entrepreneurship and enhance socio-economic and cultural development, and (b) focus on enhancing access to healthcare, food security and environmental protection, among other sectors of vital social, economic and technological importance”2.

The scope of the Policy encompasses all legislations related to intellectual property protection for the inventors, creators, designers, and entrepreneurs in the country, namely, the Patents Act, 1970; Trade Marks Act, 1999; Designs Act, 2000; Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999; Copyright Act, 1957; Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design (SICLD) Act, 2000; Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001; and Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The Policy provides the guided principles of administration of eight aforesaid National Acts. The Policy also proposes administration of related IPR Acts from a single line ministry, i.e. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Thus, IP resources under the Copyright Act and the SICLD Act are brought to DIPP respectively from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY). Henceforth, DIPP will administer, admit applications, and maintain the respective registry for patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyrights, SICLD, and geographical indications of goods. The ministries, namely, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change continue to administer the IP resources under the Biological Diversity Act and Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act.

The Policy then emphasizes on safeguarding traditional knowledge (TK), genetic resources (GR) traditional cultural expressions (TCE) and folklores, which are essential for maintaining cultural diversity and unique identity of the country and the regions. Here, the Policy suggests widening the scope of the existing Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL.res.in) by including different IP resources beyond the Indian systems of medicine.

The IPR Policy also recognizes the interests of marginalized patients in developing countries as identified from its texts: “the contribution of the Indian pharmaceutical sector in enabling access to affordable medicines globally and its transformation to being the pharmacy of the world…”. India is also a signatory to the recently adopted United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the targets of SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) emphasizes on easy and equitable access to medicines and vaccines. The Target states, “3.B Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all.” The majority of critics of this IPR Policy are apprehensive on weak provisions of affordable medicines and agro seeds in the IPR Policy document3. However, DIPP broadens its resources for safeguarding the interests of marginalized or poor patients. The IP administrators in the country also recognize the provisions in SDGs and commitments of Government of India.

The Policy also emphasizes on operational strategies in strengthening IP incubation and facilitation centres in different creative and innovative organizations for improving their institutional IP portfolios at par with the global standards. The Atal Innovation Mission also has similar operational objectives. Thus, the IP awareness and capacity development in the industries, MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), startups, R&D institutions, science & technology institutions, universities, and colleges are given priority for the early foundation of a holistic and conducive innovation ecosystem in the country. While building strong IP-led cultures in the country, India’s economic growth and technological progress would make a significant impact in other areas of human development such as poverty alleviation and zero hunger.

Table 1: Intellectual Property Administrators in India
Type of Intellectual Property Nodal Agency for IP Registration and Maintaining of Respective Registry
Patents Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry
Trade Marks Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks,DIPP
Industrial Designs Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks,DIPP
Geographical Indications of Goods Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks,DIPP
Copyright Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks,DIPP
Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks,DIPP
Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
Biological Diversity National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate ChangeReferences:
1. Press Information Bureau (2016). Cabinet approves National Intellectual Property Rights Policy. Available at http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=145338.
2. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, India (2016). National Intellectual Property Rights Policy. Available at http://bit.ly/1s5nciz.
3. Gopakumar, K.M. (2016). Why New IPR Policy Is Inadequate: Pressure from US Is Unstated Reason. Economic & Political Weekly, 51(21): 16-19.(The author is an Independent Researcher and Policy Analyst and can be reached at [email protected], Twitter: @AnasuaMDas)