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      India strengthens IPR for commercialising lab research


      India has strengthened its intellectual property rights (IPR) regime by granting the government's premier scientific body Rs.1.45 billion ($32 million) to put in place a patent management system to enable it to commercialise the research conducted by its laboratories.

      "This will create an intangible intellectual property asset for CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) and the nation," Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters Friday during a briefing on the decisions taken by the Indian cabinet the night before.

      The creation of an Intellectual Property and Technology Management System (IPTM) "will help reassure the Indian R&D community of the importance of protecting their IP and enable Indian industry to bargain for and secure access to hitherto closely held strategic technologies", the minister added.

      Contending that the scheme "is not for a physical activity wherein the benefits can be estimated and quantified", Chidambaram said it would "demonstrate that IP can be developed as a valued asset".

      "Its astute management can help realise returns from the asset," he added.

      In the first three years of the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2007) alone, CSIR has been granted 900 foreign and 1,400 patents, besides which 3,000 Indian and 2,300 foreign patents are being processed. This is a quantum leap from the 94 patents it was granted in 1997-98 and the 580 in 2001-02.

      CSIR, in fact, has claimed 60 percent of the total patents granted to Indians in the US in the past few years, government data shows.

      "During the plan period, the emphasis will be on exploiting this portfolio internationally based on its commercial potential," official sources said.

      CSIR has been granted patents in cutting edge spheres like bio-infomatics, optical fibre, bio and nano technology and polymers, as also in areas like leather, drugs and pharmaceuticals, food products and processes and herbals and plant varieties.

      India is also mulling a law to make scientists and researchers in state-run institutions stakeholders in the commercial exploitation of their work by giving them the intellectual property rights for their labours.

      "Whoever innovates should have a stake in the commercial exploitation of their research," Minister of State for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal had said while addressing The Microsoft Government Leaders Forum-Asia here last week.

      Hitherto, the IPR rests with the institution where research is conducted and this often comes in the way of the commercial exploitation of the processes.

      A bill to create a new regime would be tabled in parliament early next year, Sibal indicated.

      December 16, 2005


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