Making Patents Work!

Patent Working (or the lack of it) is one of my pet peeves. Resulting in a writ petition before the Delhi high court which unfortunately remains stuck there…without much progress. So I decided to now vent through an academic piece published in the Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property, founded and edited by the wonderful Prof Johanna Gibson. Thankfully, its the only article thats available for free download. So if you share this peeve (or are on the other side and want to preserve status quo) do click away.

Grateful for suggestions, comments and critique–but most importantly for strategic ways which we can move this cause forward. After all, the IP ecosystem needs more transparency–and this is a great way of getting there.

If you’re interested in tracking the writ petition, let me know.  For those interested, Mathews George did an elaborate and insightful discussion of the key issues raised in the writ petition here, here and here.

Anyway, here is the Queen Mary Journal piece (title and abstract of the paper below).

Making patents work: of IP duties and deficient disclosures

 Shamnad Basheer

Keywords: compulsory licensing; Indian Patents Act 1970; patents; public interest litigation


The Indian patent regime has been celebrated and censured in equal measure: celebrated by those that see in it the vestiges of a past, where nations could craft a patent policy to suit national priorities – without succumbing to the pressures of a global patent script and dictated largely by the industrial interests of the developed world – and censured by those who think that India’s extensive use of TRIPS flexibilities to advance developmental priorities comes at the cost of global innovation incentives and a uniform patent paradigm.

Indeed, the present frame of the Indian patent regime contains a unique set of provisions not ordinarily found in other regimes. Patent working is one such provision. While most patent regimes demand ‘disclosure’, in that the patentee must elaborate the invention in full so as to educate the public and enable those skilled in the art to replicate it with relative ease, the Indian patent regime goes one step further. It requires that the disclosure even extend to the mode and manner in which patents are being worked for the greater public good. This information can then be used to trigger compulsory licences and even patent revocations. To this extent, the Indian patent regime not only grants exclusive IP rights, but also imposes a set of IP duties.

As an IP duty, patent working is central to the innovation ecosystem, for its disclosure helps foster greater transparency by inter alia pegging specific patents to products. This information is particularly valuable in the high technology sector, where it is often impossible to co-relate patents and the technological products that embody them, and vice versa. Unfortunately, Indian patentees routinely flout this important legal tenet, and the government has all but turned a blind eye to it.

This paper reflects on this important statutory mandate and its jurisprudential underpinnings, particularly in relation to two technology sectors: pharmaceuticals and high technology (IT and telecommunications). It highlights a writ petition filed by the author of this paper to showcase the sheer callousness with which the patent working requirement has been treated by both patentees and the government alike. It then discusses the ways in which the mandate could be strengthened so as to pave the way for a more meaningful patent regime and a more transparent innovation ecosystem.

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.

One comment.

  1. Gowree

    Interesting piece. As practicing lawyers, we do face difficulties that have been mentioned in this article. Clear guidance from patent office in terms of FAQs covering various situations will certainly help.


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