No matter how much we try to extol the virtues of a qualitative analysis, none can deny the relevance and significance of a quantitative evaluation, for numbers speak for themselves or atleast the common man presumes them to do so. The editor of Intellectual Asset Magazine (IAM), Joff Wild, has come up with a “Patent Focus Report for 2008” for Thomson’s Knowledge Newsletter. According to this report:
“The patent office is struggling to cope as applications rise. Despite the increased workload, the four offices that handle examinations — Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai — have under 200 examiners in total. Recruitment has proved difficult and the attrition rate is high: the Mumbai Mirror reported in August 2007 that one-fifth of staff had left their posts in the previous two years. This is one of the reasons why applicants wait an average of two years before the examination process begins. However, there does seem to have been a surge in the number of patents being granted, if recent reports are correct. During the Indian patent office’s current fiscal year, which finishes at the end of March 2008, over 10,000 awards have so far been made. This figure is significantly higher than the 7,500 granted for the whole of 2006/07 and the 4,320 granted during 2004/05. Of course, it also begs the question of just how much scrutiny these patents have received given the low numbers of examiners currently employed.”
The last observation could not have been more apt considering the quality of applications filed and the procedure of examination they are subjected to. For instance, there was one peculiar application which I came across during my search for patents on diamonds. This application was titled “Artificial Sun” and the abstract read thus:
“Artificial sun is the reflector satellite prepared or covered by mirror will be sent to the gravitation of the earth as like as moon. Then the night will be change to the complete day in all over the world or throughout the world and the light is the most source of solar energy of solar electricity.”
Now after reading this application, I was instantly reminded of the movie “Die Another Day’ (2002) where Toby Stephens, who plays the bad guy, builds a satellite similar to the one crudely described above. Since this application was filed in 2006, all my hopes were dashed to the ground for I was naively expecting that for a change here was a case of a Hollywood movie, a slick Bond-flick at that, ripping off from an Indian patent application! Alas, that was not to be.
On a much more serious note, I could not help contemplating if all the efforts at sensitising the public about the importance of IP are of any use at all. I felt so, for if the establishment itself is not able to get its act together, how on earth are we going to convey the message to a population of one billion and still counting? For a moment let us turn a blind eye to the inefficiencies of the establishment which is consistent considering its track record; but what about the mainstream media, print and electronic?
Arguably, a near-accurate indicator of the level of consciousness in any aspect of a nation’s public life can be gauged from the manner in which the media reports. The more informed the media is on subtler aspects of so crucial a branch of social engineering as law, the better it is for the nation’s progress and social evolution. This does not seem to be the case in India
The other day a few reputed publications screamed from the rooftops, with the headlines reporting in breathless tones, that Bajaj had won the patent infringement case, when prudence and responsibility required them to refine their language. Were the merits of the case as regards the issue of the validity of the patent ever discussed in detail? No. The 56-page order of Justice Jothimani clearly states that the complexities of the case were not required to be dealt with at this juncture, for a prima facie case had been established on the basis of balance of convenience in favour of Bajaj. Does it not beggar logic to extrapolate this carefully worded piece of judicial pronouncement to illogical extremes thereby demonstrating a classic instance of Reducto Absurdo? One fervently hopes that atleast respected sections of the Fourth Estate retain the dignity of that beautiful profession and hold aloft the flame of truth.
That apart, the patent focus report reels out statistics on the current rate of patent filing in China, Europe, USA and Japan which may be accessed here