G. MAHADEVAN

The Kerala Government has proposed to set up an Inter-University Centre for Intellectual Property Rights and Development Studies and integrate the study of IPR into undergraduate education.

The Kerala Government’s proposal to set up an Inter-University Centre for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Development Studies at the Cochin University of Science and Technology appears to be a step in the right direction on the question of integrating the study of IPR into the syllabi of degree courses in the State.

The proposed centre has the potential of acting as a platform for cooperation between universities in the State in this emerging area of study and as a catalyst for cutting-edge research in this sector. If the government translates its wishes into reality, the centre, along with others — Centre for Bioinformatics (University Kerala), Raja Ravi Varma Centre for Visual Arts (University of Kerala), Centre for Marginalisation and Exclusion (University of Calicut), Centre for Biosciences (University of Kannur), Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (MG University) and the Centre for Nano-materials and Devices (CUSAT) — announced as education initiatives of the annual plan for 2009, would have the infrastructural and intellectual wherewithal to significantly raise the standards of teaching and learning of IPR in institutions of higher learning in the State.

The Kerala State Higher Education Council (HEC) has accepted in principle that IPR would be a component of the 10 common core papers that every student would have to study as part of the revised curriculum for degree courses that HEC is seeking to usher in.

Module

While IPR may not be included as a full-fledged paper for degree courses, it may be included as a module in one of the core papers, . What HEC is planning is to put in place a draft of a model IPR syllabus that may be suitably modified, if needed, by individual universities.

But then, what is the imperative of introducing IPR as a component of higher learning? “There is a book brought out by Intel about teaching to the future. Half the book is about how to avoid committing IPR violations while using Internet and software. It is evident from this simple example that in an increasingly globalised world, IPR can be an issue in things that we now consider commonplace. Tomorrow, adding a small paragraph downloaded from the Internet to a college project and later publishing it can involve IPR issues. If someone is singing on stage and you capture it on your mobile and later upload it on to a site, there may be an IPR issue. So, it is very important that IPR and related developments find a place in college syllabi,” explains Achuthsankar S. Nair, IT expert and head of the Centre of Bioinformatics, University of Kerala.

From a career perspective too, studying IPR makes good sense. According to R.S. Praveen Raj, a former examiner of patents and designs at the Indian Patent Office and currently scientist (IP Management and Technology Transfer) at the National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), Thiruvananthapuram, the sharp rise in IPR litigation in the country and the increase in the number of Indians filing patent applications has created an huge demand for IPR professionals.

Potential market

“Foreign attorney outfits are looking to grab this market of highly-skilled labour wherein they can get the work outsourced from our country while employing a handful of registered Indian Patent Attorneys as their agents for facilitating filing of patents. Many Indian firms lack the technical skill to prepare patent documents and so would be happy to have alliances with foreign firms who know well that only Indian nationals registered as patent agents in the country can practise before the Indian Patent Office,” he points out. A career as patent agent or as an IPR manager is highly lucrative, he adds.

Mr. Raj reasons that though Kerala has made a good beginning by agreeing in principle to introduce IPR for degree courses, much more needs to be done on this front. It is critical that IPR be made a compulsory paper for engineering courses.

Sometimes the projects done by engineering students as part of their courses may turn out to be worthy of a patent. Then the students should know what to do and whom to contact.

It is vital that research is done on IPR and related issues so that Kerala always has an HR pool ready to advise its inventors and scientists. With more top-notch institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research and the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology coming to Kerala we can expect an upswing in patent applications in the coming years, Mr. Raj points out.

Such issues may be addressed once the proposed IPR Academy becomes operational, he reckons. (The model syllabus drawn up by Mr. Raj and submitted to HEC can be accessed on the link http://www.kshec.kerala.gov.in/responses/resp_praveen.htm )