Deepmala 11 – Need for Rethinking on Patents

There are several areas of conflict and debate in the existing patenting system. One issue is that of public vs. private knowledge. Some types of knowledge – for example educational technologies, life saving technologies, must be available to all, not just to the rich. We need to develop principles by which we determine as to when the knowledge will be publicly available and when it will be kept private. Agencies should be set up to buy knowledge for the public good, including by using those principles used in land-acquisition proceedings – but this requires a clear legal and policy framework. The recent crisis in the HIV/AIDS case in South Africa has brought this issue to a global attention.

The industrial property systems were set up centuries ago for inanimate objects, and that too in formal systems of innovations. A great challenge is now emerging to look at the systems that will deal with animate objects (such as plants an animals) and with informal systems innovations )such as those by grass root innovators like farmers, artisans, tribes, fishermen and so on). The standard intellectual property system will certainly not suit such innovators and their innovations. We need innovation in the intellectual property system itself. Shorter duration patents for smaller innovations, including specific improvements in the traditional knowledge need to be conceived. They will involve simple registration-cum-petty patent system where the inventive threshold would be lower but even a small improvement in material, product or use could be protected at much lesser costs an for shorter duration. This will give a boost to the creative capabilities of otherwise deprived innovators. We, in India, will have to develop our own models of hits. This is particularly important, since only 6% of India is matriculate. But the remaining 94% of India is also innovative. We need to create our own systems to recognise their innovations.