Will Digital India Spur Patent Wars?

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The Indian government has envisioned a radical departure of taking India from a service-based economy to a product-based economy, with specific focus on connectivity. The Make in India initiative has resulted in garnering huge investments from home-grown companies such as Micromax, Lava, Intex, iBall, Xolo etc. It has also attracted several Chinese manufactures such as Xiaomi to establish production houses here. Also, Lenovo is considering setting up a manufacturing plant in India. Also, notable chip manufacturer Mediatek is investing in the Indian manufacturing business. In a bid to showcase this Make in India campaign on a larger scale, the government recently launched the Digital India campaign – a campaign that is expected to bring in investments to the tune of Rs 4.5 trillion.

Is this the advent of large-scale patent wars in India?

The last few years witnessed the emergence of patent wars in India, particularly in the smartphone and pharma industries. Ericsson has been actively involved in enforcing its patents in India, offering ungratifying competition to China-based Xiaomi. Ecrisson also won a 1% royalty right on smartphones from Micromax after it sued the Indian company for infringing on methods implemented in certain of its Standard Essential Patents or SEPs. Ericsson has eight patents that it claims as standard essential and has enforced them against Micromax.

With the Digital India campaign attracting Rs. 4.5 trillion in investment (about US$71 billion), especially from Indian majors such as Reliance Industries, Tata and Wipro, international giants like Google, Qualcomm and Foxconn are also joining the bandwagon. Microsoft has played a major role in the launch of the Digital India campaign, what with its CEO Satya Nadella announcing that the company is bringing its marquee cloud services such as Microsoft Azure, Dynamics and Office 365 to local datacenters in India. This is bound to accelerate cloud innovation and encourage telecom and networking related activities. Now, this could level the perfect battleground for patent wars in India.

Quelling skepticism

Recently, the Indian government indicated that it is necessary for India to bring its intellectual property rights on par with global standards. However, despite these potential positive steps, currently the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) ranks India second last in its 2015 list, a list made up of 30 nations that contribute to 80% of the world’s GDP. Also, note that India is one of the 36 sovereign nations which is not a party to the multilateral patent law treaty.

While India has moved up by a notch from its rank 30 in 2014, this low rank is attributed to international skepticism on Indian patent laws, especially following its Novartis judgment and issuance of CLs (Compulsory Licenses) in the Pharma industry. India has issued or is in the process of issuing compulsory licenses for pharmaceutical drugs under Section 92 of the Indian Patent Act. However, based on recent trends in telecom patent suits, Indian patent laws provide strong protection to telecom services and infrastructure providers, which can encourage investment but may also usher in a new age of patent wars in India in lieu of the Digital India and Make in India campaigns.

(Featured image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-of-computer-keyboard-249203/)

Vivek T
Vivek T

For Vivek, finding the best evidence in a patent case is like manna to his intellect. He hopes to beat Phileas Fogg’s record of travelling around the world in less than 80 day, albeit in a luxurious liner.


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