India’s New IPR Policy

The Indian government published the National Intellectual Rights Policy in May 2016. The policy has been formulated keeping in mind that there is a lack of awareness with regard to the obtaining of Intellectual Property Rights in India. The aim of India’s IPR policy is to promote the “knowledge economy”, which the policy defines as “an economy that creates, disseminates and uses knowledge to enhance its growth and development.” This is a goal complementary to Open Access, which aims to effectuate openness in obtaining, publishing and processing research, in order to create a knowledge based society. IPR could be perceived as a restriction on open access because it allows those who invent and innovate to have exclusive rights to the usage of that invention. However, IPR is necessary to encourage creativity and innovation, by allowing inventors to earn from their inventions, but the existing legal regime could be tweaked in order to support Open Access. More information about IPR and the alternatives to the existing IPR regime is here. India’s policy is framed in order to increase the prevalence of IPR. There is even a provision for the creation of special courts for IPR enforcement, which would encourage the usage of IPR.

However, some aspects of the policy could be improved upon to have better social impact. For example, one of the objectives of India’s IPR policy is to “Get value for IPRs through commercialization”. This objective states that value and economic reward for IP holders is obtained is through commercialization of IPR. While commercialized rights do protect investors, it is important to recognize that commercialization sometimes means lack of access to information. For example, say an IP holder sells her rights to a large corporation, then this means that they would not be in charge of their own rights. Therefore, a researcher may not have the legal right to share his work even though he may wish to see his research be utilized by others worldwide. The IPR policy does not prevent this utilization, of course, but a blanket promotion of commercialization may inadvertently discourage open access. To illustrate, to encourage commercialization would effectively discourage the usage of APF or repository system of sharing research. The policy also aims to commercialize even publically funded research, infact suggest that R&D institutions should reward researchers on the basis of IPR creation. This may not meet the policy’s aims, as IPR driven research is not always socially beneficial research. Moreover, publicly-funded research is slowly moving into the field of Open Access all around the world. For example, the EU recently announced that all publically funded research should be OA by 2020. Infact, the principles of this policy might not be directly aligned with the goals of the Indian government as well. Prime Minister Modi has expressed the ideas India ruling the 21st century, calling it the ‘era of knowledge’. Various institutions in India, such as the Department of Science and Technology have applied an open access policy across their departments. In 2012, India released the “National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy”, which tries to improve data management through open access. Such positive steps are benefitting Indian scientists and researchers.

The strengthening of the IPR system in India could be improved by taking into consideration the larger societal requirement of sharing of research. An IPR system is beneficial for the holistic development of knowledge, but it is not enough. Research and innovation is complementary and complex, and greater protection for the innovator is not always the best approach. This is the most apparent in the sciences, since research is often expensive and time consuming. In developing countries, sparse resources would be wasted in situations where two laboratories may produce duplicative research. A system which would implement IPR without compromising Open Access would serve the interests of the nation better, and truly make India a knowledge producer.

This blog was originally posted on the WSIS KC Blog.