Public-funded research may pay dividends for scientists

Public-funded research may pay dividends for scientists

By SiliconIndia   |   Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 13:33 Hrs
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Mumbai: The Government of India may pass a research and intellectual property-related (IP) Bill that seeks to empower Government-funded institutions to commercialize their research, besides ensuring some of that revenue flows back to the scientist, reported Business Line.

A draft Bill to protect and commercialize public-funded research has been circulated among different ministries and is with the Cabinet for comments and approval, Dr K.K. Tripathi, Adviser to the Department of Biotechnology, said. The Cabinet will decide whether to take the Bill to Parliament or seek further public debate, he said.

On similar lines as the U.S.' Bayh-Dole Act, the draft Indian Bill encourages public-funded institutes to patent inventions and explores avenues for commercialization. It also proposes that the inventor gets 30 percent of the revenue from commercializing the patent, while 10 percent is earmarked for the institute?s IP Management Cell, said Dr Tripathi. Rights to the product remain with the institute, while assignment rights are jointly held between the scientist, institute and the Government. Commercialization plans require consent from all the three, he added. There has been a substantial increase in the product filings by the Government-funded institutes, after the product-patent regime in 2005, Dr Tripathi said.

But can a U.S. legislation that addressed specific issues with some success be 'imported' into the Indian context, asked Shamnad Basheer, Research Associate with the IP Research Centre that is part of the Oxford University. Wanting the bill to be transparent, he seeks clarity on issues such as whether an inventor would have the discretion to decide to leave his/her invention in public domain. In some critical areas of science, it may make sense to encourage more 'open science' as opposed to a proprietary model, he observes.

Mark Pohl, with U.S. based Pharmaceutical Patent Attorneys, agreed that the U.S. legislation concerned did support some significant success stories such as blood-thinner Warfarin, for example, that came from a University patent.

Patent expert, Dr Gopakumar Nair said that over-negotiation by scientists and evaluation of the benefits of technology-sharing will unravel as the proposed norms get implemented. The Bill should be flexible and there should be a head-room for change, if it has to succeed.

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