Promoting IP Protection: DIT scheme for SMEs and Technology Start Ups

In a previous post, we raised the issue of whether India needs a Bayh Dole Act (at this stage). We also briefly looked at the current “environment” in India with regards patenting (as of 2003, India had only around 10,000 patents in force). The question we raised therefore was: shouldnt India first focus on creating an environment where institutions and individuals actually consider it a priority to protect their IP? I set out therefore to look at the various “incentives” that the government is offering to promote or create a culture to create and protect intellectual property.

Having worked with a few start up companies, I have often heard complaints regarding costs associated with patent filing (particularly in relation to prosecution of patents outside India). I was therefore pleased to see the details of the DIT scheme (which Aysha had mentioned in here tidbits section last year) that aims to support international patent protection by refunding upto 50% of the expenses incurred in filing a patent – and in case you are wondering, YES, it does include lawyers’ fees.

Called the SIP-EIP (Support International Patent Protection in Electronics and IT), the scheme will reimburse the costs incurred by SMEs and Technology Start-Up units in filing international patent applications (in the field of Electronics & ICT) for their indigenous inventions. The highlights are as follows:

1) The funds are given as a grant – i.e., no refunds expected.
2) The DIT does not expect any share in license fees or other benefits
3) Applicants are free to hire any lawyers (no list of lawyers from which they are expected to choose)
4) 50% of all expenses, including lawyers fees, is reimbursed by the DIT. However, this “50%” must not exceed Rs. 15 Lakhs (this is approximately $37,000 – it might not seem to be a lot from an international perspective, but it is a good start!)
5) Applicants are not required to provide a whole lot of details regarding the technology/invention in order to benefit from the scheme. (This is viewed as a plus – companies are often wary of disclosing their technology to government agencies as there is a fear that the same may be “stolen” or misused) However, a search report and a breif explanation of the commercial viability of the invention must be provided.
6) Funds are not given to Universities or government institutions, but to start up companies or SMEs. (I thought this was a very good way of ensuring that the entities that might actually bring the technology to the market, get the funds needed to protect the IP rights in the technology)
7) The Start-up/SME need not be an ICT company, it can be a biotech company or any other company. The only requirement is that the invention sought to be protected relate to the broad area of Electronics/IT. Thus, Biotech companies that are involved with bioinformatics R&D, can also avail of this scheme.

The details of the scheme are available here. According to sources within the DIT, the scheme, which was started sometime in November last year, has not attracted as many applicants as one might expect. I do encourage our audience, which I hope also consists of start-ups and SMEs to make use of the scheme. At the same time, I also invite our readers’ comments on this and similar schemes: how they can be made more attractive and practical?

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