Public consultation on the first draft of the National IPR Policy concluded this month. The DIPP received many submissions on the draft policy and also held stakeholder meetings. We’ve discussed two other submissions on SpicyIP (here and here), and this post discusses the submission made by Centre for Internet and Society, India. For our readers’ information, Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) is a non-profit research organisation that works in the areas of issues of intellectual property law reform, openness, privacy, freedom of speech and expression and Internet governance, accessibility for persons with disabilities, and engages in academic research on digital humanities and digital natives.
Like the other two submissions, CIS’ submission also reiterates that a National IPR Policy is not something to be rushed into without adequate evidence and consultation. The submission highlights certain principles that should be followed in the the formulation of a National IPR Policy, and also provides comments and recommendations for the draft policy. To begin with, the submission claims that the vision and mission are at odds with the methods suggested by the draft Policy. While the vision encourages growth for the ‘benefit of all’ and embraces the philosophy that knowledge owned (should be) ‘transformed into knowledge shared’ and, the mission expresses a commitment to establish a balanced, dynamic and vibrant intellectual property system in India, both sections leave much to be desired. The policy should also have envisioned (and set a mission) towards :
- The creation of a balanced IP framework and committing to do so by including adequate limitations and exceptions; duly acknowledged that IP is not necessarily the best and the only solution to promoting creativity, innovation and access; and prevent unreasonable and disproportionate remedies to IPR law violations; and
- Recognized that upholding freedom of expression and due process of law are essential pillars of any IP regime.
One of the (many) assumptions made by the policy is that increased IP will lead to a corresponding growth in innovation. The submission flags this and cites evidence to prove that there exists no established nexus between intellectual property and innovation, and there are reports which suggest that an increase in patents is not directly proportional to an increase in innovation and productivity. Many academic papers have concluded that the connection between patents and innovation/productivity is at best, unambiguous, and there are no positive correlations in the developing countries.
The submission also warns against introduction of a utility model protection system and mentions a couple of drawbacks- explosion in litigation of poor quality patents and legal uncertainty – which impact small business the maximum in terms of costs; risk of the system being used by foreign companies more than local firms. Utility model rights can be, and have been, used by companies to cordon off entire areas of research. Reports also suggest that in China, the abundance of utility models has led to lowering of quality of innovation. Creation of a second-tier patent protection system would lead to a deluge of low quality patents, and the impact of such a system remains debatable, especially in a developing country like India.
The policy also makes an unequivocal commitment to increase IP output at national research labs and universities. The submission cautions against use of excessive IP to cordon off timely access to valuable research produced at public funded institutions and points out that the commitment is at odds with its vision of ‘knowledge sharing’. Any IP resulting from of publicly funded research should automatically belong to the funder. Further, a focus on maximising IP will lead to research being conducted only in areas of commercial value. The objective of the section goes against the recent steps by the government to make research openly accessible in Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Biotechnology as well as other institutions. On a similar note, the submission recommends that the government develop and support the evolution of open standards. The Policy must not encourage use of IP to limit access to standards, because these are the foundational rules any technology must adhere to enter the market or ensure quality. To make the government’s ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’ initiatives a success, it is imperative that standards are openly accessible – not just for the technology sector, but also India’s manufacturing sector. It would also help to establish reasonable and non-discriminatory patent pools, so that even small scale entities can commercialise their inventions based on standards with relative ease. For instance, CIS has earlier proposed that the establishment of a a government-aided patent pool of standard essential technologies in mobile phones will facilitate cross-licensing. This may potentially help avoid a patent thicket and patent licensing war in India, the kind that has erupted internationally.
On the issue of negotiating international treaties and agreement, the submission recommends that the policy state that such negotiations shall be conducted in consultation with various stakeholders, and in a transparent manner. Regional FTAs should not override nor dilute TRIPS’ flexibilities.
Lastly, it strongly pushes the policy to not just ‘study the role of limitations and exceptions’ as future policy development, but also commit to include, adopt and periodically renew of limitations and exceptions in India’s intellectual property laws.
In conclusion, the submission seeks the creation of a policy which encourages greater use of exceptions and limitations to the otherwise exclusionary use of intellectual property, encourages the expansion of the public domain, secures proportionality in enforcement of IP rights, promotes alternatives to IP – including open access to scholarly literature, open educational resources, free/open source software, open standards, open data, and aims to create a regime of intellectual property that aims to serve the public interest and not just the narrow interest of private right holders.
Disclaimer: I work at CIS, and partly drafted the submission discussed above.