Almost 2 lakh patents are pending examination in India, due to manpower shortages, the Economic Survey 2018-19 notes. The survey notes that there is evidence to suggest a “severe backlog” and “high rate of pendency” for domestic patent applications.
“Reports indicate that due to manpower shortages there is a backlog of almost 2 lakh patents pending examination. In 2016-17, there were only 132 examiners for all patent applications in India. This has meant that patent examination and granting can take 5 or more years..” the survey notes. Further, it points out that “given the rapid rate of technological obsolescence, the inordinate delays in processing patents penalises innovation and innovators within the country.” The survey says that the government’s recent hiring of over 450 additional patent examiners might serve as a crucial intervention.
The survey, in fact, says that a “major challenge in India” has been the domestic patent system. “While India’s patent applications and grants have grown rapidly in foreign jurisdictions, the same is not true at home. Residential applications have increased substantially since India joined the international patent regime in 2005. However, the number of patents granted fell sharply post 2008 and has remained low,” the survey notes. “While Indian residents were granted over 5000 patents in foreign offices in 2015, the number for resident filings in India was little over 800.”
The survey notes that India “under-spends” on research and development, “even relative to its level of development.” “A doubling of R&D spending is necessary and much of the increase should come from the private sector and universities. To recapture the spirit of innovation that can propel it to a global science and technology leader – from net consumer to net producer of knowledge – India should invest in educating its youth in science and mathematics, reform the way R&D is conducted, engage the private sector and the Indian diaspora, and take a more mission-driven approach in areas such as dark matter, genomics, energy storage, agriculture, and mathematics and cyber physical systems,” the survey recommends.
The survey points out that “investments in Indian science, measured in terms of Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD), have shown a consistently increasing trend over the years. GERD has tripled in the last decade in nominal terms – from Rs. 24,117 crores in 2004-05 to Rs. 85,326 crores in 2014-15 and an estimated Rs.1,04,864 crores in 2016-17 – and double in real terms”. However, as a fraction of GDP, “public expenditures on research have been stagnant – between 0.6-0.7 percent of GDP – over the past two decades. Public expenditure is dominant, although its share has come down from three-fourths of all expenditures to about three-fifths.”
Vigorous efforts to improve the “ease of doing business” need to be matched by similar ones to boost the “ease of doing science,” the survey recommends. It states: “The open spirit of inquiry that is fundamental to science can provide a bulwark against the darker forces of dogma, religious obscurantism, and nativism that are threateningly resurfacing around the world.”