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25 March 2008

Importance of intellectual property for India

I read this a couple of weeks back and spent a good amount of time today trying to locate the link to the original article.

By good amount I mean more than what I normally do- simply because I could not remember where I read it, who was the author or any details except why it was so important. I thought I could rely on my memory but mnemonics just do not seem to work for me. Neither had I noted it down, so phew! But I did search because when there is a wonderfully researched and written article then I must link to it, and the topic of intellectual property is very important to us as individuals, firms and as a nation. The topic has various aspects such as;

1. At the first level, an awareness of the topic and implications.
2. Understanding the nuances of the issue.
3. And last but not the least, infrastructure required in terms of an efficient, transparent patent office and procedures.

At this point as the topic is to do with 'protection' of intellectual property and not 'investment' in it, and as the original article does not talk of it either, I am not going to touch upon the overall spending on R&D- which is also a very important indicator used for India to call itself a knowledge economy.

In the author economist Kaushik Basu's words which says it all;

The reason why I am pounding you with data on a Sunday morning is not because of a perverse desire to ruin your holiday, but to alert you that, while India is surging on many fronts, it does badly when it comes to inventiveness; and this can have severe long-run consequences.

The rise of intellectual property is such a recent phenomenon, that most people have no idea what it means. When we speak of property, we usually think of tangible things — land, house, watch. Especially in India, the ownership of an idea seems strange. But unless we wake up to this global phenomenon and partake in it actively, we will lose out.

One way of understanding this is to look at the colonisation of the Americas. Most of the original inhabitants of the New World lost their land not by war but by not understanding what it was that they were giving up. A recent book by Stuart Banner, How the Indians Lost Their Land, documents how, since the native people did not have the concept of property rights in land and had little experience of buying and selling land, they could not fully comprehend what they were giving up every time they sold land (often for a few bottles of rum) to the settlers from Europe. Banner records how the natives would “sell” land and continue to trespass on the land, simply because they were not used to thinking of land as property and did not understand the rights that came with land ownership. By the time they understood it, their land was gone.

Intellectual property today is at a similar juncture.

Please please read the whole article. But if you cannot for some reason then the data that he speaks about is as follows;

If we deflate the absolute number of patents granted to residents by some measure of the size of the nation, the picture changes only a little. In terms of patents granted per capita, Japan is the world leader, followed by South Korea, with US in the third place. If we look at the patents-to-GDP ratio, the US drops to the fifth rank, with South Korea, Japan, Germany and New Zealand leading.

Where does India figure in all this? Virtually nowhere. Even accounting for the fact that we are a poor nation and so cannot be expected to compete with industrialised nations, our performance on intellectual property has been dismal. China, which till recently had a poor record of creating ideas, has become a major international player. In 2005 it moved up to being the third largest patent granting office in the world. The world’s five largest patent-granting offices — Japan, US, the European patent office, South Korea and China — together account for 74 per cent of all patents in the world.


Dr. Nicole said...

Wow I had no idea that South Korea and China had all the patents! That is outrageous!

Deepa said...

I was also intrigued at the data. I keep posting stuff that is boring with the hope some of my country people will read too :) It is tempting to overlook dull matters such as these when one is having fun as the country is on a growth path and doing well. Thank you for your visit and comment!

Realty Rider said...

The term Intellectual Property (IP) reflects the idea that its subject matter is the product of the mind or the intellect. These could be in the form of Patents; Trademarks; Geographical Indications; Industrial Designs; Layout-Designs (Topographies) of Integrated Circuits; Plant Variety Protection and Copyright. IP, protected through law, like any other form of property can be a matter of trade, that is, it can be owned, bequeathed, sold or bought. The major features that distinguish it from other forms are their intangibility and non-exhaustion by consumption. IP is the foundation of knowledge-based economy. It pervades all sectors of economy and is increasingly becoming important for ensuring competitiveness of the enterprises.As was the case with China, India too showed signs of resistance to quick enforcement of international intellectual property right (IPR) protection laws as demanded by the developed countries, particularly the US.There is a well-established statutory, administrative and judicial framework to safeguard intellectual property rights in India, whether they relate to patents, trademarks, copyright or industrial designs. Well-known international trademarks have been protected in India even when they were not registered in India. Protection of intellectual property rights in India continues to be strengthened further.
The importance of IPR in the Indian economy will have to be understood properly. Tomorrow’s wars will be fought not by conventional weapons, guns, missiles and so on, but in the knowledge markets with new thermonuclear weapons called information and knowledge. The war on patent rights, which took place between Eastman Kodak and Polaroid, was settled for about one billion dollars. Some of the ongoing IP battles for instance between Intel vs AMD and Microsoft vs Apple involve millions of dollars. So these wars in the knowledge market will be expensive. As India plays its new role in a globalized world and changing its IP laws, it will have to gear up to fight these wars in both India and abroad.For more view-

Deepa said...

Other than the use of the word war, I'd be in agreement with most things you have noted.

As I see it it is also a safeguard and preventive measure and transparent, effective and technology enabled systems are required so that the entrepreneur can use it.

Is there a link to the official site where one can register IP rights if there is one for India.

Thank you for visiting and the comment.

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