“The Indian government is preparing to introduce legislation that it hopes will reverse the traditional hands-off attitude at most Indian universities toward commercializing the results of basic research. The proposed bill, a draft of which was obtained by Science, sets out rules that institutions must follow once their scientists make a patentable discovery. In addition to serving as the first such nationwide guidelines, the legislation is meant to send a message to university officials that technology transfer is part of their job.
“The idea is to create an environment of innovation,” says Maharaj Kishan Bhan, secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, which helped to draft the bill. Until now, he says, “university administrators [have been] free to encourage or discourage patenting and commercialization efforts. And there are many who believe that industry and academia should be kept miles apart.”
The legislation directs institutions to report patentable discoveries to the funding agency as soon as they come to light and to file patent applications within a year. Institutions and inventors who fail to meet the deadline would forfeit their intellectual property rights to the agency that funded the research. Institutions must give inventors at least 30% of any revenues from a patent and spend the rest on research.
The government plans to introduce the bill this spring in Parliament, where it is expected to win swift passage”.
SpicyIP tried very hard to get a copy of this bill, but was told by several sources that the bill was “confidential”. Given that we are very interested in promoting transparency in Indian intellectual property policy, this is one word that does not sit well with us.
By “confidential”, does the government mean that they are not interested in a public debate? I visited the Ministry of Science and Technology (the Ministry which is pushing this bill) website to check for any references to this bill. Apart from a parsimonious reference to a proposed bill in one of the parliamentary question/answer sessions, the website makes no other mention of this important piece of legislation. Much to my incredulity however, the Ministry has uploaded a draft bill that seeks to regulate “medical devices”. Importantly, it has specifically called for public comments. See here.
Quite clearly, “medical devices” are of greater public interest than a purported Bayh Dole style legislation—which seeks to address issues of innovation, the nature of university research, university-industry technology transfer etc!!
Yes, the government may say that they intend to make this public after the bill is introduced in Parliament. But don’t we all know that once introduced, it is much more difficult to effectuate amendments, even if faults are spotted?
I repeat the last sentence of the science article referred to above: “The government plans to introduce the bill this spring in Parliament, where it is expected to win swift passage”. I am not sure how swift the passage will be. Perhaps a little flashback is in order here: in late 2004, many of us watched with shock as a presidential ordinance introducing pharmaceutical product patents was pushed through overnight. In other words, when the government wishes, it will put even Japan’s pride, the Shinkansen to shame..
It needs to be noted that this is a bill that will have important ramifications, necessitating inputs from all stakeholders and the public at very earlier stages. The issues involved are far too serious and have implications for the nature of university research, university–industry technology transfer and issues of innovation and access generally. I’m not sure as to the kind and quantum of background study already conducted by the government before they decided to import this model from the US. Were there any empirical studies conducted on the patenting trends at universities, the various bottlenecks to achieving better university-technology transfer, how best to achieve better knowledge spillovers of University research etc?
I’ve now dug up what turns out to be a much older version of this bill and have posted it here . I understand that a newer version of this will be introduced in Parliament soon. I will post some preliminary thoughts on the structure of this bill tomorrow. In the meantime, if any of you get access to the bill, do forward us a copy.