Destination India: your innovation is well-guarded

For many innovative companies, the first yardstick while devising a market-entry strategy is  favorable intellectual property (IP) regime. India is one such market that embraces innovators with open arms. In fact, it serves as its competitive advantage over other large markets in the region. India is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a signatory of all major treaties on IP rights. It’s not unusual to find similarities between India and Israel in terms of securing, protecting, enforcing and litigating IP rights. Most notably, India is a signatory of the Paris Convention and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which allows an Israeli company to file a patent application in Israel, which can be subsequently examined in India without a separate Indian application.

Be early!

India follows a ‘first-to-file’ system, by which the rights are granted to the applicant who files before anyone else, who may or may not be the actual inventor. It is advisable to apply for the patent as soon as possible, even as early as the stage of market research. In order to be granted a patent, the invention also needs to be novel, involve a significant and non-obvious step and should have a commercially viable application.

It pays to license your innovation

India is characterized by complexity in geographies and cultures. Even if an Israeli company acquires Indian patent protection, it might not have adequate bandwidth to fully exploit its commercial potential. Therefore, IP licensing becomes an attractive opportunity to tap the resources of the local partners while enjoying rights of the invention. However, one should be extremely diligent while drafting such licensing agreements to avoid mistrust over licensor-licensee, failure to come to revenue-sharing model and ever-evolving market dynamics.

For startups, it’s even sweeter

With close to 5,000 startups and growing by approximately twenty percent a year – India is the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, playing neck-to-neck with Israel. Acknowledging that most startups have limited manpower and financial resources, the Government of India revamped the national IP policy in 2016 to make it significantly easier and faster to secure patents. In addition to expedited patent examination, Government of India provides eligible start-ups with free consultation with patent agents/attorneys and significant subsidies on patent application fees.

Patents are now faster to obtain

According to Mayank Sood, partner at K&S Partners, a leading IP law firm in India, “The rate of processing patent applications have picked up significantly in last few years. The average duration of examination reduced from seven years to four/five years. While the number of applications processed went up from 17,000 (2015-16) to 60,000 (2016-17). That’s a dramatic improvement”. The general perception of a long waiting period to obtain IP registration has now become a story of the past. “Recent amendments in the legislation made it easy for one to file and expedite applications” says Aaron Solomon, a partner at Solomon and Co., a reputed law firm having extensive experience of advising Israeli clients in India.

Optimistic about the economic co-operation between the two countries, Mr. Yaakov Finkelstein, Consul General of Israel in Mumbai says,” There is a great emphasis on the using innovation as a means to boost bilateral trade, as exhibited by the recently initiated India-Israel Innovation Fund (I4F). Both governments are committed to promote the mutual ease of doing business”. Alfred Arambhan &  Anat Bernstein – Reich, founders of A&G Partners, a consulting firm facilitating business between Israeli and Indian companies further stated that,“Having worked closely with Israeli and Indian companies for over 15 years, we feel the vibrancy and urgency for special emphasis on IP at all levels of government, the legal fraternity, innovators, companies and mainly startups .We are committed to highlight and support awareness and implementation of IP through the ‘Bridge to Innovation’ program and in all our existing and future activities in India and Israel.”

The article has been co-authored by Pooja Arambhan. Pooja, a corporate lawyer and an International MBA graduate from Tel Aviv University, was a Israel-Asia Leaders Fellow 2015. She was recognized for her efforts for women empowerment and was the youngest invitee from India at the Womens’ Empowerment Principles Summit (2013) at the United Nation HQ. She also serves as CFO of a publicly listed hospitality company in India.

About the Author
Sandipan is a PhD candidate in Biochemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. He is passionate about introducing affordable patient-centric healthcare solutions to the Indian market. Note: All opinions expressed are personal and are not endorsed by any affiliated institution or organization.