I reproduce the government response below:
Government of India
Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion
Udyog Bhawan, New Delhi,
Dated 17th April, 2008
Shri Shamnad Basheer,
Sub : Making Indian Patent Information Public.
Kindly refer to your letter dated 3rd December, 2007 regarding making Indian patent information public.
I am happy to inform you that as mandated by the Patents Act, 1970, patent applications, in the form of bibliography and abstract, are published in the Journal of the Patent Office. It is also published on the web site of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDTM), viz, www.ipindia.nic.in. Inspection and supply of full specification and drawings are available against payment of prescribed fee under Patents Rules 2003.
Grants of patents are notified in the Journal of Patent Office and inspection or copies of which can be obtained from the concerned patent office against payment of prescribed fee.
As provided in Section 144 of the Patents Act, 1970, the reports of the Examiners to the Controller are not open to public inspections. They are also not liable to production or inspection in any legal proceeding unless the court certifies that the production or inspection is desirable in the interests of justice and ought to be allowed.
As may be seen from the preceding paras, most of the information is available to public against payment of prescribed fee. In order to make the information related to patents more easily accessible to public, establishment of digital database of patent records has been contemplated as part of the Eleventh Five Year Plan project for Modernization and Strengthening of Intellectual Property Offices. It may be appropriate to mention that out of 214,103 records of granted patents 45,000 are already available to public in searchable format on the website of CGPDTM namely www.ipindia.nic.in. The other records are under either digitization or verification. The same is expected to be completed by end of this year.
The processes of establishment of database of all granted patents and making of other records and documents easily accessible to public are being closely monitored by the Ministry.
After receipt of this letter, I spoke with Mr James and also exchanged some emails with him on the efficacy and user friendliness of the current database. Mr James indicated that the 45,000 figure (number of granted patents that had been digitized as per the letter above) had now increased to over a lakh (1,00,000).
More importantly, he mentioned that is very open to receiving suggestions from users on their experiences with the current database. In particular, he noted that: “The effort to put on website the patent records is an ongoing process. As and when some records are ready they are being uploaded. Suggestions on improving the search criteria are welcome.”
Given that many of our readers are “users” of the patent system and some are experts in the art of “patent searching”, could we please request you to come back with your thoughts on this database and its various features (including suggestions for improvements), in the “comments” section of this post? Or you could even email me at [email protected] Please be as elaborate as possible in your feedback. We will then collate this user feedback and send this to Mr James.
The Mint carried a story on this government response to our online petition, which I reproduce below:
“The Planning Commission has proposed a project to digitize all of the country’s patent data in the 11th Plan (2007-2012) as part of the patent office modernization programme.Industry lobbies, patent lawyers and patient groups have for long been appealing for transparency in the Indian patent system.“…this project is expected to be completed by end of 2008,” the department of industrial policy and promotion, or DIPP, an arm of the Union commerce ministry, said in a letter to one of these groups
Once completed, records of all the 214,103 patents granted in India till date will be available with details on the website of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks. About 45,000 records are already available online, and the rest will be incorporated soon, T.C. James, director, DIPP, said in the letter.As reported by on 24 December, a group of industry representatives, patent experts, lawyers and patient groups had urged for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervention in creating a system to make information on patents, their filings and grants public.
The plea, signed by about 150 people, had requested Singh to increase transparency and accountability at Indian patent offices by creating an online database, complete with the official decisions and examination details. Currently, grants are notified in the journal of patent offices only in the form of bibliography and abstracts. Patent experts say these abstracts are not of much help as they do not contain details of the patents, which is essential for filing opposition or raising objections. “Another key demand was to provide access to information on how patent grant or rejection decisions are made,” said Shamnad Basheer, a leading patent lawyer and research associate at the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre.
Basheer, who had initiated one of the campaigns for transparency in the Indian patent system, said examination reports, file notings and comments by patent officials should be made public to reduce the scope forcorruption. However, DIPP has not made any headway on this demand. The department has clarified in its letter that as per law, “the reports of the examiners to the controller are not open to public inspections. They are also not liable to production or inspection in any legal proceeding unless the court certifies that the production or inspection is desirable in the interests of justice and ought to be allowed.”
But it has mentioned that “the processes of establishment of database of all granted patents and making of other records and documents easily accessible to public are being closely monitored by the ministry now”. In January, India’s National Knowledge Commission—an advisory body to the Prime Minister—had recommended that all patent applications should be released with complete details to give sufficient opportunity for any pre-grant objections.
The commission had also suggested providing electronic access in real time to all steps of a patent application—from detailed patent descriptions, examination reports at each stage to amendments introduced at various points—to maintain complete transparency in the system.”