Tarun Kumar Bansal, President, Sagacious IP. elucidates how Indian companies should focus on assessing global inventions and their corresponding patent portfolios before they dive into one of the underlined strategies.
Almost everyone who is acquainted with the term “patent” understands that it is “the right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention”. Although, it is quite difficult to quantify the true value of an invention, however this “exclusive right” authorizes its inventors to recoup the ROI on the patented technology. However, there are two obvious questions that must strike any seekers’ mind.
- Does an inventor/company start worldwide business when the patents are granted?
The answer is no, because it normally takes years to scale any business and there are numerous instances when companies have seldom expanded to jurisdictions, even after having protected IP.
- Are patents universal rights?
Again, the answer is no. A patent is geographically restricted. For example, a patent granted by United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) has no power inside the Indian or Chinese geographies, unless the invention is also protected in these lands/jurisdictions.
Thus, both the mentioned constraints leave an open ground for the companies around the world to leverage the potential inventions to the best of their cause. This leads to our discussion; how can Indian companies benefit from the quality inventions to impact her billion people’s lives.
The scope of benefitting from global inventions subject to our discussion can be subdivided and looked from two IP perspectives;
- Inventions without any patents in India
IP threat-free markets: Identify the proven businesses abroad that do not have any IP OR have patents that are expired in India. Such businesses can be replicated in India. This, in essence, is a backdrop of the second limitation of patent system and in line with the given IP perspective, i.e., when inventions do not have any IP in India.
The chart below compares the global vs. Indian patent filings in Mobile Payment technology space. It exemplifies the negligible numbers corresponding to Indian patent filings, leaving an open field for business opportunities. A similar relation can be observed in other technological sectors.
However, this open field is not restricted to any specific entrant. Rather, anyone and everyone may enter the market space and overshadow performing businesses. Thus, companies may need to secure IP to stop the competition and later expand to other jurisdictions – which paves the way forward into unleashing our second part of discussion.
- Inventions with patents in India
Acquire patents and stop competition: Many global companies own patents but seldom use those assets. This provides low-cost acquisition opportunities for Indian companies to scout for such inventions and acquire good patents in their operating jurisdiction. This will help them in leveraging these patents to stop competitors and scale their own businesses. In typical Indian scenario, large number of players often enter into a proven business space, thus cutting the space. However, if any player is eligible to enforce its IP rights, they may always be in a position to stop competition and scale up exponentially. To enforce their IP rights, they will need to have strategic patent portfolios corresponding to such inventions, which can be pulled and acquired from these global players – or license if acquisition is off the table.
Enhance product features: In case they are already operating in some market space then they may identify Indian patents owned by global players related to their existing product/service lines to enhance product features. This portfolio on a lighter note may be called as improvement patent portfolio, which helps to improve your existing product/service features. Improvement inventions can be licensed/ acquired from similar or different market sectors. For example, only a decade ago one could not have imagined the astonishing cross market applicability of location-based services – from ride sharing to food delivery, from search and navigation to advertising. However, companies need to simultaneously use the first strategy to secure themselves from any competitors.
New product/service lines: Patents being the novel sources of knowledge help to identify new products or features to be included in a company’s offerings. Thus, this case caters two likely scenarios: a fresh entrant into the space or an existing company in pursuit of entering into a different product/service line. They may identify good patents and consequently license or acquire to start new product/service lines. The players however need to simultaneously incorporate the two preceding strategies to master the competition game and continuously scout for the quality global inventions and underlying patents if protected in India to enhance their product/service features.
Looks simple, right? But it’s not as simple as it reads. Companies need to have strong technology evaluation teams to assess global inventions and corresponding patent portfolios before they may dive into one of the underlined strategies. However, the listed strategies if implemented correctly may prove the potential game changers in the Indian scenario – never forget your next product/service line may potentially impact more than a billion lives.
After much of this strategic discussion, one may ask whether an IP strategy really matters to any Indian player, given the current status of the Indian patent system.
The answer is blatantly affirmative, considering the policy and litigation landscape of the Indian patent system over the recent years. The recent changes – 2016 and 2019 of patent rules and newly introduced regulations for expedited examination show India’s commitment towards a stronger patent system. On the other hand, IP litigation in India has mostly covered Trademarks and Copyright issues in the past. However, from the last five years Indian courts have seen a decent number of patent infringement suits. The recent litigations initiated by Philips and Interdigital against Xiaomi showcase the evolution of Indian patent system towards the need for a strong and embedded IP and innovation policy for market players.
To compliment the given policy strategies, home players must nurture and build a high-performance innovation engine. Given the changes and evolution of Indian patent system, there is no doubt that you can book a seat to defend your business by implementing these strategies. However, to build a sustainable business, you need strongly embedded innovation policies.