A patent is a statutory right for an invention granted for a limited period of time by the Government, excluding others from making, using, selling or importing the patented product or process without consent. Let’s understand the importance of patents in business.
A patent is a property, an intellectual property, that belongs to anyone who registers it with the government’s Patent Office. In India, patent protection is granted under the Patents Act of 1970, giving the patent holder the exclusive right to the product or process within India.
Initially, there was limited awareness about the significance of patents in business. This was for a variety of reasons. In the early days of Independence, Indian companies and organizations rarely came up with new innovations in products and processes. Most domestic companies were trading firms, involved in buying and selling. And the production of goods and services were controlled by foreign multinationals, with know-how from the parent company.
But things have changed in the last decades. Indian companies are coming into their own, developing new products, services and processes. Developing these products, services and processes involves huge investments in manpower, money and time. Naturally, those that come out with these innovations expect to reap rich rewards through their efforts. For example, let’s say an automobile company comes out with a car that runs efficiently on biofuel. It naturally would not like someone else to reverse-engineer the car and come out with a product of its own, cutting into its profits.
Indian companies in areas such as pharmaceuticals, information technology and biotechnology are coming up with cutting-edge innovations that need to be protected.
Even in areas other than organized business, patents play a vital part. They help the traditional sectors that utilize grassroots know-how to come up with useful products and services. For example, turmeric has been used for centuries in India as a cure for many kinds of ailments, for curing wounds. But no one thought of applying for a patent in India. Some years ago, two researchers in the US got a patent for the use of turmeric for wound healing. The patent was withdrawn after a legal battle with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which argued that turmeric had been used for centuries in India and that it was not novel and thus could not be patented.
This brings us to the question of what can be patented. Here are the criteria:
However, not everything can be patented. Here are some of them:
, but is there a downside to them? Well, there are a few you need to be aware of. One is that filing patents can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Another disadvantage is that you have to make information about the product and process available to the public, and this could render you vulnerable. Violations also could mean lengthy court cases with uncertain outcomes.
But these are small pinpricks, especially with huge sums of money involved in developing new products and processes.