China, India Discuss National IP Strategies, Local Innovation 06/07/2007 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen Officials from the governments of China and India discussed challenges in developing national strategies for intellectual property and innovation at a recent colloquium, but common to both countries were aims to boost local innovation by stressing research, and build on technology transfer. Patent applications seem to be on the rise all over the world, with countries such as the United States also having problems coping with the increased paperwork. But nothing seems to beat the growth in this area in China and India. The State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of China hires 600 to 800 new staff every year, and India, with its four IP offices (New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai), has seen a four-fold in the number of examiners and hires some 125 new patent examiners each year. The 2 July colloquium held by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) featured T.C. James, director of the Intellectual Property Division at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in India, and Liu Jian, division director of the International Cooperation Department of SIPO in China. It was part of a series of colloquia held by WIPO in 2006 and 2007 on selected IP topics. Both officials painted the growth picture in an almost unconditionally positive light, referring to innovation and socioeconomic development, showing photos of new and larger buildings and referring to reduced processing times. But James emphasised more than Liu the need for a balance between the patent owner rights and the public interest, which he said is “the challenge of the policy makers.” He said that there is a balance in the 2005 Indian Patent Act and there is “not a big debate now” on this issue. James appeared to emphasise the rights in the patent act and asserted that India’s law is now “totally in keeping” with the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). He avoided talking about a current court case in which Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has challenged the Indian law (IPW, Public Health, 18 June 2007) although he was asked about this by the audience. He talked instead about the “public interest safeguards in the patent act,” such as “compulsory license to ensure availability of drugs at reasonable prices,” but said this provision has not been used, not even when avian influenza had hit the country. James also discussed a national design policy announced on 8 February this year, and plans to set up a new IP training institute on 14 July. He said India has cooperated with WIPO in developing its IP administration, but also has a European Union-India technology and investment development programme and bilateral agreements with the United Kingdom, France, European Patent Office, United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Japan Patent Office. In addition, it has had negotiations with Italy, Switzerland and Singapore. Liu said that a key incentive for increasing innovation was to promote the efficient use of natural resources for socioeconomic development, and find innovation for energy, water resources and the environment. He said there had been a 10-fold increase in China’s gross domestic product but 40 times increase in the use of natural resources in China. He said the main constraints and challenges regarding China’s priorities of science and technology innovation were: “limited supply and high consumption of critical natural resources which are bottlenecks for economic growth; environmental pollution and ecosystem deterioration; social problems such as epidemic disease; insufficient technological innovation capacity and lack of independent intellectual property rights and core technologies.” Liu said China was now at a crossroads. It is the fourth largest manufacturing capacity in the world but needs to “create an innovation-oriented country” in order to become an innovator and not just a producer. This is the main aim of the government’s “National medium- and long-term science and technology development plan (2006-2020),” in which more than 20 ministries and departments and more than 2,000 experts are involved. It was launched in January this year, he said. China is also revising its intellectual property law, which will later go to the People’s Congress for adoption, Liu said. “China is the third largest global trade power, but its high-tech products independently innovated only account for two percent of its total foreign trade,” he said, referring to independent innovation as “indigenous.” Liu said that among the main goals of the national strategy and policies for innovation was that the “dependency ratio for foreign technologies will decrease to below 30 percent,” as opposed to the current level of more than 50 percent. Liu said China plans to boost its local innovation activity through three main initiatives: Increasing basic research such as scientific discovery and technological innovation; integrating existing technology to make new products and improve the capacity to “absorb, digest and improve imported technologies,” and “to recreate intellectual property rights based on these technologies.” China ranks among the world’s top five in terms of “invention patent applications,” Liu said, and ranks first in terms of number of applications filed for trademarks, utility model and design. Liu said Chinese are starting to file abroad as well now. The domestic statistics also include non-residents and joint-ventures. India does not include utility model in its statistics and the number of filings is lower than China, but still James referred to statistics showing close to 30,000 patent applications filed for the 2006-07 period. James argued that “confidence in IP systems is a powerful stimulator for innovation and inventive steps,” and supported this by stating that the number of global firms entering India had increased from 18 in 2004 to 30 in 2005 and 50 in 2006. James also referred to the importance of technology transfer. “An effective and efficient IP system, including the administration, encourages creative and innovative activities and also promotes transfer of technology,” he said. He said India wants to ensure the development of new technologies, contributing to welfare, but he said one had to admit that many looked “sceptically” upon IP. Tove Gerhardsen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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