Sunday, January 25, 2009


Intellectual property rights or more commonly known as patent rights are recognized rights of every citizen in the world but the pre-requisites for granting a patent are supposed to be tedious and time consuming. But with GOI becoming a member of WTO and after opening up of the economy in early nineties, patent activities have received a new boost and hundreds of patents are being applied for, in all areas of science, technology and engineering within the country as well as in other countries. Conceived originally to protect the economic returns that can be expected from commercialization of patents, lately the system has been subverted for enriching the bio-data of a few people with least consideration for their commercial potential. In other words patents are becoming synonymous with literary publications and the quantity has taken precedence over quality. There is a feeling that many patents are prepared not based on scientific work but concocted, sitting before a computer and if this is true it only reflects on the failure of the system of patenting in this country. In the field of food technology if a dispassionate analysis of the patents filed during the last one decade are made, one will find it difficult to identify even a single one that has been successfully exploited by any major industry!

Here is an example of a fictitious patent that can be drafted sitting before a computer for some time:

Title-Discovery of food products that can delay diseases in human beings

Author- Dr Vishwa Kiran with hundreds of patents already in pocket, about to enter into Guinness World Records, Limca Book of Records and other record keeping organizations, member of 'many' national, notional and 'some' international organizations, 'widely' decorated, quoted and photographed, specialist in inauguration speeches, special lectures, key note addresses, presidential thoughts, guest appearances in public platforms, specialist in 'getting' awards where ever available at 'any cost' through any means, special ability to survive personal set backs more than that of a cat which has only 9 lives, superb quality of reaching the perch in organizations through high PR techniques, single minded devotion in pursuing and demolishing opposition and extra ordinary capacity to be on the right side of any one with political power. No hesitation in advocating in public forums that " patents should be aimed at society's welfare" and set an example "single handed" through various patents filed in the past, that can be a proud possession of any museum.

The product-Foods made from a plant called Fraudulis vipranam discovered recently ( patent pending )

The invention in brief- The above species of plant discovered by the same author, growing abundantly at elevations of 3000 ft above sea level has parts like roots, stem, leaves, flowers and the fruits having phytochemical constituents (identified and patented separately) which are processed by separate processes into RTE products ( process patents pending) that can be consumed to delay on-set of various diseases in human beings. It is claimed that:

-the product made from roots increase synthesis of cyclic AMP which in turn peps up the metabolism and delays the disease psoriasis by several days
-the product made from the leaves has several phytochemicals including salicylic acid and delays development of high blood pressure conditions in people above the age of 60 years by several weeks
-the product made from the stem is excellent for delaying cancer by a few months if taken three times a day at the dosage level standardized
-the flowers are processed into a dry powder which delays the disease diverticular disease by two years in people below 40 years when consumed at 50 g level every day before going to bed.
-the bright yellow fruits about 5 mm in size are processed into a jam like product which if consumed every day will delay the onset of diabetes in population above seventy years

The author of this patent has filed a dozen separate applications for patents for growing the plant under different conditions and another dozen patents for new plants developed through cell culture, tissue culture, recombinant DNA technique and conventional hybridization process which have higher potency and longer effect.

In all probability the above material can be converted into a convincing patent application with the help of an expert patent lawyer. It is very difficult for any patent examiner to verify the technical contents and determine the innovative aspects of a patent application filed like the above one and with practically no one interested in filing objections to the claims, it gets a number which will adorn the bio-data of the author. Interestingly some patent holders publish the material in respected journals after a couple of years getting a double advantage! There are many good scientists who spend their life time in doing high quality research and go for patents based on their work to provide technology to the industry, unlike the example illustrated above. Proof of a good patent is when entrepreneurs see commercial potential in it and buys the same at reasonable cost. It is not the intention here to tar the entire scientific community for patent frauds but a few who commit such heinous crime must be ostracized for their activities.

The issue regarding patenting food products and processes was not properly considered before India accepted the WTO protocols and to add to the misery of Indian entrepreneurs, Ministry of Science and Technology encouraged large scale patenting activities in all areas. With no guidelines for pricing of patents it was left to the patent rights holders to decide on selling them which invariably resulted in over pricing, denying a large segment of the food industry, the ultimate users, the benefits of public funded R & D. Those who could muster enough resources to purchase the patents were left in the lurch as wide disparities appeared between the claims and the performance.

India must stop the practice of patents in public funded institutions unless it involves national security and unjust exploitation of Indian resources by foreign companies. The patents on turmeric and other native spices and Basmati are examples of protecting the country's unique heritage foods. While domestic entrepreneurs are provided free access to the patents, foreign companies can be charged for accessing to the technology covered by food patents. The recent nation wide IPO awareness campaign is a classic example of our dichotomy in preaching but not practicing what is preached! The organizers of this program must ask themselves some questions as to whether any one of them had bought any Indian Patent in food products and processing technology during the last 15-20 years, if so whether the products have been put in the market and how much royalty they had paid to the scientists, while preaching about the virtues of patenting!



Anonymous said...

the author of the "ficticious patent" seems strangely familiar to mysoreans.
But tongue in cheek apart, the in new product patent regime (the one that replaced the old 1970 patents act), if a patent has a potential for societal benefit, the patent office can force the inventor to commercialize the patent and if there is a delay can ensure that the commercialization goes ahead. The patent office has that right.
Also, the govt can always intervene if there is an unfair exploitation of the patent (high priced products,etc)

These two points can be confirmed by a patent lawyer

Dr. V.H . Potty said...

The anonymous commentator made a valid point that Government has laws to force patents to be used if they are of relevance to social causes. So has the Government umpteen number of laws which adorn the statute books without any teeth. In spite of the draconian PFA, how many adulterators have been punished since 1956? Does that mean adulteration is no more prevalent in this country? Even a child knows that this is a haven for adulterators.

Regarding the "tounge in cheek" comment, this blog is prepared with one hand on the computer and the other hand on the heart. Unlike some of the Patent Pundits who have the perennial "Foot & Mouth Disease" and love to hear their own voice, this blogger does not boast of that ability. This blogger is, of course, familiar to many Mysoreans and there is nothing strange about it. So are many Indians who read this blog familiar with him.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dr Potty that the Indian Patent Office,which does not even have the right machinery to examine the patentability (of apppliction),cannot be expected to govern a patent regime, and that too, for meeting 'social needs'.
By the way,The anonymous commenter has not referred to the blogger as 'strangely familiar to Mysoreans', but to 'the author' the latter has referred to in the fictitious patent described in the blog.

Anonymous said...

Sir, We hear about strange and fictitious patents being registered all over the world by individuals with their own money. After all 'fiction writing' is considered as a talent and entertains people who has the time to read through it. But only in India the patent-registerng is done with tax-payers money to boost individuals' name. Instead a 'Director' or a 'DG' deciding on what product or process to patent, cann't it be done by a group of well known scientists appointed by the government? (Of course, well known not by registering such spurious patents!!) Even finding a set of such reputed scientists will be a daunting task in India where even 'top notch award winning scientists and vice chancellors are known to run after 'awards' and 'doctorates' with cooked up data, money and political patronage.