SpicyIP Weekly Review (2nd March – 8th March, 2015)


SpicyIP Highlight of the Week!

This week’s highlight was Mathews’ post on Utility Models, and the costs and benefits of setting up sui generis UM protection in a country like India. Mathews took on an article written by the former Registrar of Copyrights, Mr. Zakir Thomas, which summarily rejected the idea of any sort of protection for Utility Models, or Petty Patents. Mathews argues that UM protection merits serious consideration, at the very least, before it can be discarded. He then posits three possible arguments that could be mounted in favour of sui generis UM protection, especially in the context of a developing country that is home to a unique culture of minor, incremental innovation, or jugaad.

First, he argues that UM protection could serve to incentivise innovation at the grassroot level, thus including into the formal IP framework large numbers of people currently excluded from marketing their ideas. Second, he makes the link between UM protection and the startup ecosystem, pointing out that IP frameworks with lower thresholds for marketable innovations would lead to increased investment due to the reduced risks involved. Third, he highlights the importance of incremental innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, noting that UM protection would not facilitate evergreening, since it would not erode the safeguards already in place for novelty. Mathews rounds off his analysis by emphasizing that although UM protection may turn out to be unsuitable for the Indian market, it is necessary for us to examine its potential before discarding it off-hand.

Next, Devika brought us an announcement calling for applications for the post of Assistant Professor at the Inter-University Centre for IPR Studies (IUCIPRS) at Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT).

In the last piece of action in an admittedly dull week, I did a post on the growing number of voices within the mainstream entertainment industry that were turning away from aggressive copyright-based monetisation strategies. I presented two such examples – filmmaker Shekhar Kapur and screenwriter Devashish Makhija. In addition, I refer to instances from abroad of artists exploring newer monetisation methods (most notably the “freemium” model embodied by the BitTorrent Bundle format) after seeing their copyright-based efforts fail. In a nutshell, the claim I make is descriptive, rather than normative: artists in India and elsewhere are sensing the ineffectiveness of aggressive copyright enforcement, and moving toward alternative business models.

International Developments:

  • Michelle Lee, former deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Google, was confirmed by the US Senate in her appointment as director of the USPTO.
  • Hitler’s Mein Kampf is set to go out of copyright and into the public domain later this year, presenting a unique set of problems. For a detailed analysis of these extremely interesting issues, head here.

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Balaji Subramanian

Balaji is a third year student at NALSAR, Hyderabad. He is currently an editor of the Indian Journal of Intellectual Property Law. He is fascinated by technology law and IP law, and is an active member of NALSAR's Technology Law Forum. When he isn't doing law school things, he wanders the country looking for quizzes to participate in. He can be emailed at [email protected]

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