Monday, June 8, 2009

IITs to commercialize patents through tie-up with investment firms

The Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) will work with investment firms who invest in 'innovation' , to market around 900 patents they holds, reports the Business Standard.

The IIT Bombay will work with the investment firm Intellectual Ventures, to ensure support in marketing and licensing the patents which the institute holds. The same is in consideration by the IIT Kharagpur, IIT Kanpur and IIT Guwahati, while IIT Delhi has already signed a contract with the venture firm.

"Most of our faculty does research and there's no inclination towards inventions. With this tie-up there's a clear incentive to invent," said Devang Khakkar, Director, IIT Bombay.

IIT Delhi files 20-25 patents annually. "Securing the intellectual property (IP) has never been a major ambition for a faculty member. Since this tie-up, we have a regular series of patent filing which is picking up now. Besides, arrangements like these would help us protect the IP to an extent," said Director, Surendra Prasad, Director, IIT Delhi.

A UK based venture firm, Imperial Innovation, has also reached the IITs other than the U.S. based Intellectual Ventures.

Stated as 'open invention', these companies not only help the IIT to monetize the patents, but also provide the knowledge in the field wherever it is lacking.

The faculty in these institutions are said only to be involved in research, a very few of them are really interested in taking this opportunity for innovation.

"In a year's time, patent disclosures have more than doubled. And in the next few years, it would go three-four times higher," said a senior executive from one of the invested companies. The experts in the industry say that the patent disclosures have increased dramatically since the IITs started tying up with these companies. India, though, is very slow as compared to China, which is the third-most prolific patent-filing country in the world after the United States and Japan. The State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) received more than 694,000 patent applications in 2007, says an Evalueserve report. The Indian Patent Office received just 35,000, 20-year patent applications in 2007-08.

"Patent filing has been growing in both China and India at about 20 percent a year, compared with a seven percent growth rate for the U.S. However, SIPO received approximately the same number of 20-year applications in 1997 as the IPO did in 2007-08. This implies that India is approximately 10 years behind China," the report contributed. In China, patents are issued faster than in India: the average time taken from filing to grant in 2007 was, 26 months for invention patents, 6.8 months for utility model patents and 6.6 months for design patents. In India it takes 3 to 5 years for a patent to be granted, which is one on the reasons for the rapid proliferation of patenting in China, especially after the country had joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Filing a patent in India costs between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000, as compared to around $25,000 to $30,000 (Rs 12 lakh to Rs 14 lakh) in the U.S. The Indian universities still lack the capability to raise funds for innovation. Globally, many big universities have a Technology Licensing Officer, who works towards raising commercial investment in the development of innovation.

According to the records from the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks, the number of patents filed in 2006-07 was 28,940 - a 19 per cent increase over 24,505 filed in 2005-06. The records for 2007-2008 were not available. The number of applications for patents originating from India was 5,314 - approximately 18 per cent of the total number of applications.

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