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Increase in Demand for Trained Patent Professionals in the Information Technology Industry
Atulya Nath
Monday, October 3, 2011
Information Technology (IT) has emerged as a key sector of the Indian economy in terms of its contribution to export earnings, employment opportunities, investments and overall socioeconomic development. India's IT potential has attracted multinationals to grab a share of the pie and cash in on the IT boom. Notwithstanding competitive pressures from around the world, the sector continues to grow as a consequence of access to trained English speaking professionals, cost competitiveness and quality telecommunications infrastructure.

Despite the rapid growth, experts have attributed the success of India’s IT sector and especially of its software firms mainly to outsourcing services to multinational firms for low-value, routine and standardized tasks. Lately, it has been observed that the IT companies are committed to boost their spending on R&D and innovation, which is evident from the increase in number of Patents that have been filed by these companies at the US Patent Office, European Patent Office and the Indian Patent Office.

A patent is the right that the owner has and which sets about ensuring that others are excluded from creating, making use of or selling the invention defined in the assertions made in the patent. Typical process of obtaining a patent undergoes five layers: disclosures by the investor, search for patentability, filing of application, examination of the patent application and amendment of the application. A major portion of this work is undertaken by technical (BE, BTech, MS, PhD) professionals with sound subject matter knowledge and skills in patents and patent process.

In India, software is protected under the Copyright Act and not the Patent Act (as in many western countries). However, Indian IT companies have filed patent applications for their software in other parts of the world and these companies continue to seek non-software patents in India. Many of them have also filed business method patents in US. As Indian IT companies restructure their operations for high value service offerings, they are focused on innovation and intellectual property generation and protection in India and abroad.

The Indian IT industry has registered a 29-fold increase in patents over 2005-2008 and as opposed to this, growth in patent applications with the Indian Office of the Controller General of Patents was negatively affected in 2009, says the Nasscom Strategic Review, 2010.

As opposed to this, both in 2009 and 2010, the number of patents filed by Indian IT companies in the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) has witnessed a growth of over 20 per cent.

Information available on the official web site of the United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) indicates that the major patent filing, from India, has been in the field of chemistry followed by software and Automotive. The major filers include Mahindra Navistar Automotive, Infosys Technologies and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. The other filing is coming from Ittiam Systems whose patents were granted for Software and Communication, also STMicrelectronics for microprocessor and sensor.

The patent filing statistics of the Intellectual Property Office India shows that the number of patent filings in the field of computer science & electronics has been on the rise since 2004 (except for the year 2009). From 5700 patent applications in 2005-2006 the number has gone upto 7646 applications in 2009-10. The top five Major Indian application for patents in the field of IT are – Infosys Technologies, LG Soft India, C-DAC, NewGen Software Technologies and Samsung India. Whereas Microsoft is the top foreign filer for patent applications in India.

For Indian IT companies to have a sustained growth in terms of intellectual wealth creation and patent portfolio, they need focused in-house IP development and commercialization of these innovations. This needs to be supported by an increased thrust on Patents for these companies to stay ahead in the technology licensing market.

Thus, there is a growing need for trained patent professionals in the IT sector as the number of technical professionals having skills in the area of patents and patent process is very low. These skilled IP technical professionals can work as a patent engineer, patent analysts, patent consultants, patent associates, IP business analysts in the in-house teams at the Corporate.

Another sunrise Industry booming in India is the Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) sector. KPO work requires knowledge expertise, technical and analytical, and a skilled workforce. The sectors that have potential within the KPO industry include data search, integration and management services, financial services, research and analytics, technology research, computer-aided simulation and engineering design, and professional services such as business research and legal services. Today the KPO industry in India employs approximately 2,55,000 professionals out of which approximately 12,000 are involved in Legal, Paralegal and IP related services. Assuming 25 percent of these professionals are involved in IP related services, the KPO industry today employs approximately 3000 IP professionals. Further a study by independent research company shows India will have a higher growth rate in KPO segment of 45 percent compared with 25 percent in the BPO segment. This shows that the number of IP professionals engaged in the KPO industry will be approximately 30,000 by March 2015. It is estimated that half of the country’s patent professional community, working at KPOs, will be professionals with technical degree in field of Computers, Electronics or Telecommunication. Approximately 12,000 – 14,000 such patent professionals will be required by 2015.

The author is CEO, Global Institute of Intellectual Property

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