India has an improved ranking on the International Intellectual Property Index report

By Disha Rawal

Having been infamous for a burgeoning load of rules and regulations, India has reasons to cheer the latest International Intellectual Property Index report, where it is placed 44th among the 50 nations on the list. This marks the first time that India has broken out of the bottom 10% of the economies measured. The US Chambers of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Centre releases this index, which has been topped by the US, followed by the UK this year.

The report said that India’s improved ranking is a reflection of the reform efforts on computer-implemented inventions (CIIs) and increasing protection to well-known marks. Awareness created through workshops and training has also led to India’s better performance and the implementation of the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy 2016. The July 2017 ‘Guidelines on the Examination of Computer-Related Inventions’ is said to have contributed to the environment for patenting of technological innovations. Thus, even though these initiatives are clearly recent, they represent a move in the positive direction.

Steps still to be taken

However, India’s poor performance in absolute terms highlights the need for further reforms in this field. The country’s engagement in international IP treaties and participation in PPH (Patent Prosecution Highway) Tracks has been low, which has been flagged as an area of concern. This is especially because countries like Singapore have made strides in this area specifically. Apart from that, Indian rules and regulations remain to be extremely bulky with respect to international standards.

India’s limited international presence is a strong cause for worry. In the current context, US withdrawal from important treaties like the Trans-Pacific Partnership has created a leadership vacuum which is being filled by countries like Japan. Japan is emerging as the leader in Asia in this field, however, it is also simultaneously raising costs for some of its major industries by promoting tougher IPR laws. This is also paying off in the form of revenue generated due to IPR regulations.

New challenges

With Artificial Intelligence breaking new ground every day, there are two important aspects of how IPR laws will work in the future. Firstly, maintaining IP records is a hard job, and requires lots of manual accounting, which often results in discrepancies. In fact, it is assumed that a quarter of IP data is faulty. With AI, data can now be uploaded and mined faster and more accurately. Thus, records can be maintained more efficiently and companies can employ these systems to choose geographically where they would get their patents registered. These possibilities present new challenges to policymakers.

Secondly, what has to be resolved is that who owns the work produced by machines? What is defined as creativity? Can we incentivise machines to produce better work by granting IP rights? In the future, if India manages to take a stronger foothold on IP issues, it may steer these debates to an end suited to the country.

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