NKC Vice Chairman: Bayh Dole Bill was Shrouded in Secrecy

TV Padma of the Science and Development Network (Sci Dev) has this report on the proposed Indian Bayh Dole bill. As per her report, the bill was first recommended by the National Knowledge Commission (NKC). Pushpa Bhargava (who resigned as Vice Chairman from the NKC last year) is quoted as alleging that there was considerable secrecy around the bill and that “every attempt was made to circumvent an open discussion and debate over it..”

Given that Pushpa Bhargava had an open fall out with Dr Sam Pitroda (the Chairman of the NKC) last year, one is not entirely sure if Pushpa is correct in his assessment here or whether this is yet another instance of him taking a shot at Dr Pitroda for personal reasons. I reproduce Padma’s report below:

The Indian government is to discuss a draft bill allowing government-sponsored researchers to patent and commercialise their work — but the legislation is generating heated debate amongst scientists.

The draft legislation is to be introduced for debate in the Indian parliament in the next two months.

It is spearheaded by the Ministry of Science and Technology and modelled on the United States’ 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which gave US universities and research institutes intellectual property rights over public-funded research.

The bill states that public-funded research in India has often produced innovations that hold potential for public good, but these have “languished in laboratories” instead of being released commercially.

This is blamed on the retention of intellectual property rights by the funding body, a lack of incentives for academic institutes to commercialise research and the absence of appropriate legal framework to accomplish this.

The new legislation seeks to rectify this by placing the potential for commercial gains in the hands of the researchers.

Officials from India’s Department of Biotechnology, which helped draft the bill, say it will promote innovation in Indian universities and research institutes by generating funds through patents.

The bill represents “much-needed change,” according to Somenath Ghosh, managing director of India’s National Research Development Corporation, which helps organisations and individuals commercialise their inventions.

Ghosh told SciDev.Net that most Indian universities have little awareness of the need to protect and commercialise knowledge. “There was no mechanism or incentive to protect knowledge and their research networks have limited interaction with industry.”

But critics are concerned at the speed with which the bill has been processed and the secrecy surrounding it.

The bill was recommended by India’s National Knowledge Commission, a government advisory body.

But Pushpa Bhargava, who resigned as vice-chairman of the commission last year, says there was no major open discussion at the commission and he was “taken aback” by the recommendation.

“Every attempt was made to circumvent an open discussion and debate over it,” Bhargava told SciDev.Net.

Dinesh Abrol, a scientist at the National Institute for Science, Technology and Development Studies in Delhi, says that university research in India and the United States are vastly different.

In the United States, Abrol says, state agencies play a major role in supporting research involving several institutes and universities, which all receive large grants. But in India, most state universities are poorly funded and left out of major national research projects.”

Shamnad Basheer

Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer founded SpicyIP in 2005. He's 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 Prof. Basheer joined Anand 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. Later, he was the Honorary Research Chair of IP Law at Nirma University and also a visiting professor of law at the National Law School (NLS), Bangalore. Prof. Basheer has published widely and his articles have won awards, including those instituted by ATRIP, the Stanford Technology Law Review and CREATe. He was consulted widely by the government, industry, international organisations and civil society on a variety of IP issues. He also served on several government committees.

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