More Indian residents filing patents than MNCs despite challenges: Economic Survey

India still lags behind China, the United States, Japan and South Korea despite an increase in the number of patents being filed

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Tuesday 01 February 2022
Low expenditure on research and development, procedural delays and the complexity of filing patents have acted as deterrents in India. Photo:

More Indians filed for patents than multinational companies, according to the Union Economic Survey for 2021-22. Indian residents’ share rose to 40 per cent in 2020-21 from around 30 per cent in 2016-17.

Overall, the number of patents being filed in India shows an upward trend. It went up to 58,502 in 2020-21 from 45,444 in 2016-17 and 39,400 in 2010-11.

The share of patents granted also showed a similar growth: Increasing to 28,391 in 2020-2021 from 9,847 in 2016-17 and 7,509 in 2010-11.

Consequently, India climbed 35 ranks since 2015 on the Global Innovation Index to place 46th in 2021.

Despite this growing trend, India is still lagging behind China, the United States, Japan and South Korea by a huge margin.

The numbers of patents granted in 2020 in China, the US, Japan and South Korea were 530,000; 350,000; 179,000 and 135,000 respectively, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.

One factor hindering progress is India’s low expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) activities. In 2020, the country spent 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product on R&D.

There are other problems too. Procedural delays and the complexity of filing patents have acted as deterrents, the report stated.

Publishing the patent, which is the first step in the process, takes 18 months in India. In contrast, the US, China, South Korea and Japan complete this in 15.4, 14.4, 11.1, 10.2 months, respectively.

The report recommends bringing down the time for publishing to 14-15 months to match the US and China.

The average pendency for the final decision in acquiring patents in India has dropped to 42 months in 2020 from 64 months in 2017. But this is still high. The US, China, South Korea and Japan take 20.8, 20, 15.8 and 15 months, respectively.

Fewer patent examiners in India is another issue. In 2020, they were 615 patent examiners. In contrast, China, the US and Japan had 13,704, 8,132 and 1,666 patent examiners respectively,

“This leads to a huge delay in receiving First Examination Report, delaying the whole process. This was also noted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce’s Review of Intellectual Property Rights Regime in India (2021). Hence, there is an urgent need to increase the number of patent examiners,” the report read.

Applications involve seven steps: Publication of the application, reference to an examiner, first examination report, hearing, pre-grant opposition, opposition hearing and granting of the patent.

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