A brighter future?

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We aim to clear our backlogs within the next five years, says Chaitanya Prasad, the new controller general of patents, designs and trademarks

Arobust system of creation, protection and management of intellectual property is a sine qua non for the economic and technological development of a nation.

My vision for the patent and trademark office for the next few years is to improve the quality of services provided and put in place structures that can guarantee outputs with very specific deliverable targets.

Chaitanya Prasad
Chaitanya Prasad

It is vital that we remove the current backlog and, while doing so, reach a situation where output matches the input. At present we have about 125,000 pending requests for patents, which are in the process of being examined. We are working out the resources required to clear this huge backlog, including examiners and technological upgrades, and we estimate that we should be able to clear it in a five-year time frame. Within five years we should be in a situation where input to output flows are also under control so that a backlog does not recur.

While doing this we also need to focus on the quality of the patent process and the quality of our examinations. This is vital as the Indian patent office will soon be an international searching authority and an international preliminary examining authority. As a result, our search reports will be accessed by the patent offices of other countries as they examine corresponding patent applications pending with them. We need to improve quality not only for ourselves, but also because we would like to be considered as an authority with a lot of credibility.

To improve quality I plan to have a research and evaluation cell under my control that will continually examine the quality even after patent is granted. This will help us see how we are doing in terms of quality and how we can further improve it. We also plan to improve both output and quality in the field of trademarks, designs and geographical indications.

A key part of the vision would include improvement of the interface of the public and stakeholders with the patent and trademark office. I plan to have information cells in each of our offices that will help applicants with online filing, sort out glitches that appear and get these resolved swiftly. These information cells would constantly be in touch with the research and evaluation cell at the main office. Together they would do various kinds of studies to see how we can keep on improving both the quality of our work and output.

I also want to improve the interface our own examiners and controllers have with our IT modules that have been developed. This has to do with our internal functioning, but is key to making the process as efficient as possible. Some of the things we could do include streamlining the process to remove redundancies and introducing intelligent systems.

We also plan to put in place specific deliverable targets for our output. While we aim to clear our backlogs within the next five years, we should be able to generate a first examination report within a maximum period of 12 months from the date the application becomes mature for examination.

Another target that we think should be achievable in the next four or five years is that the entire application should be disposed of within 30 months from the date the application becomes mature for examination. At present the USPTO [United States Patent and Trademark Office] and EPO [European Patent Office] take about 30 months and 40 months respectively.

To ensure these targets are met we are currently working towards increasing the number of examiners and controllers. We have already recruited 250 examiners and around 125 have joined the office; 99 are currently undergoing training and we have given some time extension for others. We expect to have another batch of 50 to 100 people for the next batch of training.

The training that is currently going on is of very high quality. In fact I am pleased to say that the people we have recruited are also of very high quality. They are from a variety of disciplines and are highly qualified. Some have engineering degrees and doctorates.

The recruitment was handled by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and we expect this to be an annual affair. This will ensure we achieve our targets and also take care of anticipated attrition.

While we do all of this, we have a big task ahead in persuading applicants to move increasingly towards online filing. At present only 20% of patent and trademark applications are filed online. Ensuring that more filing is done online will reduce our workload and also improve the accuracy of the information.

Before we can convince more applicants to use the online filing system, I understand we need to improve the system to ensure that the entire process can happen online. We are working on this. Even after this is done we will need to make the applicant aware of the benefits of online filing. If in a year or so 50% of filings are done online, it will be a good achievement.

Chaitanya Prasad took over as controller general of patents, designs and trademarks at India’s intellectual property office on 12 March.