A patent is a government guarantee of exclusive use of a product or process for a certain amount of time to its patent holders. In short, when your patent application is accepted, only you will have the exclusive right to make the product or use the process under the law. It is a form of intellectual property that includes trademarks and copyright.
The law under which patents are protected is called patent law. What is patent law in India? In India, patents are covered under the Indian Patents Act of 1970. Under this, any person claiming to be the true and first inventor or his representative can make an application for an invention.
Invention means a new product or process involving an inventive step and capable of industrial application. Patents can be filed at four offices of the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks in Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. The term of the patent is 20 years.
Under the act, the ‘new’ invention should not have been published in India or elsewhere. There should be no prior public knowledge or use within India, and no prior claim to the invention should have been made earlier.
The mere discovery of a scientific principle or a new property of a known substance does not qualify for a patent. Other exceptions include inventions relating to atomic energy, whole plants and animals other than microorganisms, inventions that are based on traditional knowledge, etc.
There are some safeguards in the patent act to protect the national interest. These include compulsory licensing of drugs to ensure availability at reasonable prices, provision to deal with a public health emergency, and revocation of patents in the public interest and also on security considerations.
Infringements of patent law occur when a third party uses the products or process without permission. Action against these infringements can only be taken in the country, in which the patent has been filed. For example, if a patent is filed in the USA, action cannot be taken if there violations in India.
If an infringement of a patent has taken place, the patent holder can file a suit in a district court of the high court in India. If the case is proved, the court may order an injunction against the infringing entity, order it to pay damages to the patent holder and ensure the seizure or destruction of the products.
International developments have played a key role in shaping the patent act in India. In 1994, India signed the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement mandated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It took a while before this was incorporated in Indian patent law, and came in the form of the Patent Amendment Act of 2005, which provided patent protection for new technology, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
There are a plethora of benefits that come from patenting a product or service. Companies and organisations spend a lot of time, effort and resources in developing new products or processes. Naturally, they do so with the expectation that they would profit from these innovations. They will not be able to make profits if someone else replicates the same product or process. So, the patent law acts cultivates and fosters innovation, encouraging companies, organisations and individuals to come up with new ways of doing things. It is this innovation that drives economic and even cultural growth.
Patent law has some disadvantages as well. For one, since most cutting-edge medicine comes from developed countries, patent protection means Indians have to pay high prices for drugs to treat diseases like cancer. Another fear is that if generic drugs, which are made in huge quantities in India, are covered under the patent act, it could lead to higher prices as well. Patenting of seeds by large multinational corporations, in particular genetically modified seeds, has been controversial in India.
Currently, we see a lot of development in India pertaining to IPR and patents. They are being recognized as development tools. While, there may be certain disadvantages, but the advantages of patent protection far outweigh the negatives.