International patent war and future of patent rights

A patent is the transfer of a set of exclusive rights to a scientist or an inventor by the state, in exchange of detailed public disclosure of an invention which could be a solution to a specific technical problem (utility patents), a new design (Design patents) or a newly invented product (plant patent).

International patent war and future of patent rights

Some people confuse patents with copyrights and trademarks. Copyright is a kind of protection provided to an author, artist or musician for their original work in the form of scientific and literary piece work both published and unpublished. Copyrights allow its owner to make new copies of his work and make derivatives of his copyright work. A trademark on other hand is the symbol of a company used for trade to identify the server or source company and distinguish it from others.

Who can apply for patent?

Any person who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent. If two or more persons make an invention jointly, they apply for a patent as joint inventors. A person who makes only a financial contribution is not a joint inventor and cannot be joined in the application as an inventor. It is possible to correct an innocent mistake in erroneously omitting an inventor or in erroneously naming a person as an inventor. However, there are some restrictions according to which a product or plant variety which is already available to people to be used or purchased cannot be registered for patent. In case of plants variety the geographical importance has key role.

International competition for patent rights

Internationally different companies are in state of constant competition to get the patent for different designs and even for living organisms. Patents have become a driving force behind intensive genitive engineering research and every other day new and modified forms of plants and animals are appearing. This thing is organizing the global market for agriculture and animal breeding to a new context. Patents registration for seed production has become even more complex and all major seed producing companies have already been purchased by agrochemical companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont and Baye. Today almost 50% of global seed market is under the control of only 10 multinational companies and only Monsanto alone has spent 10 billion USD in last decade to take over the companies in agriculture sector.

Glimpse from history

A very famous dispute on sub-continental basmati rice patent appeared in 90s when US granted the patent of basmati rice to one of its company and India reacted very strongly against it as this act violates the international laws for patents by ignoring the geological importance of plant and its main origin which is basically India and Pakistan. No serious action was taken from Pakistan government. If a country loses the patent right over its local plant variety then it would no longer be allowed to continue its marketing or export which would ultimately result in great economic loss. In coming years the importance of patent rights is increasing and within couple of decades it will reshape the international market.

Trade related intellectual property right agreement

Pakistan signed an agreement in 1996 on trade related intellectual property right (TRIP) with WTO. Patent registration practice in Pakistan is going down after 2009 and within 10 years it would affect the trade in a negative way. Recently a four day training workshop was held by HEC in November 2015 to promote patent awareness and in this workshop the chairman intellectual property right organization (IPO) Shahid Rasheed stated that only 117 patents have been registered in Pakistan in last 5 years and total 1050 patents were generated in last 50 years of national history.

According to World Bank data Pakistan has produced almost 8000 scientific research publication in last 5 years which is far less than our neighboring countries like India with 93,000 and Iran with 33,000 publications in last five years. Compared to such a huge number or publications the number of patents registered in last few years is disappointing.

HEC is taking some initiatives to encourage young researchers for intellectual property rights and commercialization of research work by institutes.Our government should also take serious actions to promote the awareness of patent rights. Researcher and designers should be educated about the importance of intellectual property right transfer and proper guidance should be provided by their research institute or university.

It is time for us to realize the importance of intellectual property right transfer as any delay in it would result in long term negative consequences for our nation economy.

The author Saira Aftab is from the School of Biological Sciences, Punjab University Lahore, Pakistan.




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