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BIG PATENTS ARRIVE IN INDIA!! FIRST USEFUL PATENT DATABASE


As many of us know, the Indian Patent Office does not do a great job of making information publicly accessible/available. Currently, it publishes patent applications through its weekly journal, (in both print and electronic formats) containing only bare essentials such as the abstract, title of the invention, convention priority date and applicant details. A copy of the complete specification has to be requested in writing from the Patent Office. Apart from this, the Patent Facilitating Centre (PFC) of TIFAC provides access (including web access) to two online patent databases ‘Ekasawa A’ and ‘Ekasawa B’ that contains details of patent applications published since 1995 (including those published for opposition). However, much like the patent office, these databases provide only the bare minimum. As a result, it is very difficult to procure complete details of patents and patent applications and there may be some omissions in the information obtained.

Users of the patent system or those interested in patent information need to put greater pressure on the patent office to do a better job of making this information available. After all, it would be a shame if India, which is touted as an IT superpower, can’t even do a decent job of creating a good and usable online database of patent information. And, isn’t it paradoxical that the patent office, an institution that is in many ways the repository of cutting edge technology, suffers a severe “technology lag” when it comes to IT/databases?

We also need to advocate for greater transparency in patent office decision making, which would inter-alia, involve making patent decisions available to the public. During the 80’s and early 90’s, some of these decisions were made public and proved tremendously useful for a paper I did whilst assessing the role that “policy” played in patent office decisions. Unfortunately, with the retiring of then Controller General, Mr Shanti Kumar, this practice was discontinued. It would be great if this were resumed. After all, more critical public review of these decisions can only lead to a more robust patent system.

Fortunately, some public-spirited individuals are doing a great job of filling this void. One such effort has led to a terrific database of India specific patent information. Professor Bhaven Sampat, who teaches at the Mailman School of Public Health in Columbia University has put together, “Big Patents India”, along with Patrick Crosby of XB Labs, LLC and bigpatents.com. This laudable initiative was made possible with funding from the Ford Foundation.

This is perhaps the first site to provide a complete, searchable (and free!) version of post-TRIPs Indian patent applications and issued patents.

The bulk of the data was parsed from the Indian patent journals, beginning with those published in January, 2005, using proprietary algorithms developed by XB Labs. Data not parsable via programming were hand coded by Digital Divide Data, a non-profit social enterprise offering data entry services.

Prof Sampat and his team are working on several enhancement to the site, including:

i) Links from Indian applications to corresponding international applications
ii) Links from the Indian application data on this site to relevant page (pages) in the Indian Patent Office Journal
iii) User guides on “How to Search for Indian Applications and Patents” and “How to find Indian Applications for Drugs on the FDA’s Orange Book”

They are also discussing the feasibility and desirability of implementing a “peer review” system for Indian patent applications (modeled on the Community Patent Initiative) with stakeholders, policymakers, academics, and potential funders.

Prof Sampat is an economist and a prolific writer in the area of patents/innovation. His research centers on the economics of biomedical innovation, the law and economics of the patent system, and science policy. His current projects examine the political economy of the National Institutes of Health, the effects of patents on access to medicines in India, the interactions between patent laws and FDA regulation in the pharmaceutical industry and the determinants of patent quality in the U.S. patent system.

Shamnad Basheer

Shamnad Basheer

Prof (Dr) Shamnad Basheer founded SpicyIP in 2005. He is currently the Honorary Research Chair of IP Law at Nirma University and a visiting professor of law at the National Law School (NLS), Bangalore. He is also the Founder of IDIA, a project to train underprivileged students for admissions to the leading law schools. He served for two years as an expert on the IP global advisory council (GAC) of the World Economic Forum (WEF). In 2015, he received the Infosys Prize in Humanities in 2015 for his work on legal education and on democratising the discourse around intellectual property law and policy. The jury was headed by Nobel laureate, Prof Amartya Sen. Professional History: After graduating from the NLS, Bangalore Professor Basheer joinedAnand and Anand, one of India’s leading IP firms. He went on to head their telecommunication and technology practice and was rated by the IFLR as a leading technology lawyer. He left for the University of Oxford to pursue post-graduate studies, completing the BCL, MPhil and DPhil as a Wellcome Trust scholar. His first academic appointment was at the George Washington University Law School, where he served as the Frank H Marks Visiting Associate Professor of IP Law. He then relocated to India in 2008 to take up the MHRD Chaired Professorship in IP Law at WB NUJS, a leading Indian law school. Prof Basheer has published widely and his articles have won awards, including those instituted by ATRIP and the Stanford Technology Law Review. He is consulted widely by the government, industry, international organisations and civil society on a variety of IP issues. He also serves on several government committees.

6 comments.

  1. AvatarShamnad Basheer

    A friend of mine, Essenese Obhan, who does great patent prosecution work at Anand and Anand, writes:

    “This is good stuff. thanks for pointing it out.

    However, the Indian patent office has now actively started digitizing their records, including pre 2005 data.
    So we should hopefully see a good indian patent office website soon.

    Second, this site also does not cover the period 1995 – 2005. While ekaswa claims to have this period covered, it is not accurate. Thus applications filed in 1995 which would be valid till 2015 may not show up.

    Essenese”

    Reply
  2. Avatarpankaj

    i disagree with the views of ur friend Obhan..a database of indian patents is being told to be under preparation since time immemorial.just google for “indian patent office” and one can find many results.indian commerce minister in this link(http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=23630) says the modernization is almost complete, on 31-12-2006. so by know the databases shoud be functional..which however is not the case.
    a article on indian patent office which appeared in express pharma
    (http://www.expresspharmaonline.com/20060731/market01.shtml) is closer to reality

    Reply
  3. Avatarpankaj

    shardul shroff( an attorney) describes about granted indian patents at this link “http://www.managingip.com/?Page=17&ISS=17631&SID=524406”

    so indian patent peer review is the need of hour ,in view of the lack of transparency in indian patent system unlike pubpair of U.S

    Reply
  4. AvatarShamnad Basheer

    Dear Pankaj,

    I think you’re broadly right–and much as I hope to see a good database from the Indian patent office, a survey that I did last year on the IP infrastructure in India didn’t leave me too confident in this regard. Since the patent system is now being subjected to intense scrutiny by not only stakeholders and activists, but also members of the public, I’m optimistic that this will prod the patent office/govt to do a better job in terms of transparency and putting patent information out in a more accesible form.

    Reply

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