Specialisation in patent law is becoming a lucrative career option.

In the last few years, research on intellectual property has received attention from the government, academicians and students as well. However, patents in particular have not received their due in Chennai, especially, because of the basic lack of awareness of the existing Patent laws and India’s involvement in the TRIPS (Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement.

A patent is all about claiming ownership over the product you created, which in turn helps you make a profit out of it. As the culture of patenting catches on, specialisation in patent law is becoming a lucrative career option. Patent attorneys are trained in Intellectual Property Rights, the laws that protect ideas.

The list of firms that seek their services is long — government agencies, pharmaceutical industry, cosmetics industry, design departments, agri-based units, law firms, research organisations, voluntary organisations, publishing houses, media units, software industries and corporate houses.

But this culture of patenting is yet to take root in the universities. Though students come up with several new innovations every year, they do not acquire the status of a patented product. “Students make the mistake of publicising their inventions before filing, through reports, thereby making the patent application invalid because of public knowledge. Also, they fear giving away their ideas to facilitators, because of the wrong notion that they might steal it,” says Rajiv Surana of Villgro, an organisation which helps rural innovations acquire patents.

The level of awareness is equally poor among industries. “Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr. Reddy’s and Ranbaxy of India are the companies that account for almost all the patents from India. This is dismal considering the several pharmaceutical and research industries that India houses,” he adds.

Steps are being taken by the government to raise the level of awareness on patenting. S. Vincent, member secretary of the Tamil Nadu Council for Science and Technology (TNCST), has this to say: “We have taken the initiative of setting up five Patent Information Cells (PIC), each in University of Madras, Bharathidasan University and Madurai Kamaraj University, Bharathiar University and Manonmaniam Sundaranar University. We now have a focussed approach. I can surely say that efforts such as these will ensure more patent applications in the future. Eighteen councils have been identified to spread knowledge on IPR, and TNCST is one of them.”

Obtaining a patent is not a one-day job. The process involves battling out several legal issues such as infringement of the patent and ownership and profit sharing issues in the case of group innovations. Moreover, educational institutions themselves face myriad hurdles when it comes to who owns the patent rights — innovator or the institution. In this regard, Mr. Rajiv Surana says, “The only way to go about solving these issues is to have sound IP policies that address these problems.”

Patenting not only benefits the innovator, but also has a positive impact on a country’s economy, by being a barometer for the growth of innovation. This in turn attracts investments into research and development. “"Keeping this in mind the government of Tamil Nadu has alloted Rs. 45 lakh for the purpose of initiating awareness amongst grassroots innovators and entrepreneurs,” Dr. Vincent adds.