Today (Dec 28, 2009), Times of India (TOI), Bangalore, has published a news article relating to patents on the front page. Since the article was related to patents, it caught my attention and I decided to read what the article had to say. After reading the article, I could not help but wonder how minimal is the research that goes into writing an article that gets published on the front page. A simple internet search to understand a few concepts could have resulted in an article of better quality.
My interpretation of what the article tries to convey
India has 424 biotech companies, however only one US design patent has been granted to an Indian company between 2001 and 2008. Further, despite initiatives launched by government in the past 3 to 5 years to give a boost to this industry, Indian companies lag in product design, because of which only one design patent has been granted between 2001 and 2008. In light of the aforementioned finding, officials of Department of Bio-Technology (DBT) have made the following comments:
“In general, the Indian industry is risk-averse. This is probably a reflection of the reluctance of Indian banks and investors to invest in biotech ventures. Industry-led R&D is still not adequate in scale and quality when it comes to innovation and discovery research.“
“Of these, merely one is a design patent. Clearly, the big challenge in front of us is the scaling up of Intellectual Property.”
My take on the article
In my opinion, the article tries to draw a conclusion that Indian biotech companies lag in product design based on the fact that only one US design patent has been granted to an Indian company between 2001 and 2008. Before drawing such conclusions, one needs to understand the various types of patents that are granted by the USPTO. Basically there are three types of patents, utility patent, design patent and plant patent, that are granted by the USPTO.
Utility patent is granted to inventions with functional improvements, whereas a design patent is granted to ornamental designs, such as shape of coca-cola bottle, ornamental design of spectacle frame, ornamental design of jewellery, and the like.
Hence, in my opinion, design patent protects the look and feel of a product, and it is of value to companies involved in trade of products in which look and feel of the product is important. Therefore, such design patents may have very little or no value, if I may say so, to a biotech company, whose products sell mainly because of the functions/characteristics of their products, and not because of how their products look.
Further, it may be noted that product design in addition to dealing with the look of the product, also and more often deals with the functional aspects of the product, which can be protected by utility patents. Furthermore, in my opinion, in biotech companies, product design may mainly deal with functional aspects as compared to aesthetic aspects of the product.
Hence, in my opinion, the conclusion, which the article tries to draw, that Indian biotech companies lag in product design based on the fact that only one US design patent has been granted to an Indian company between 2001 and 2008, is misleading. Additionally, the comments quoted in the article only showcases the level of understanding of concepts of Intellectual Property by the officials of DBT.