Patent filings by Academic Institutions

Increase in Patent Filings by Academic Institutions


With a plethora of opportunities to quench one’s technological pursuits or showcase the creative abilities of the students, higher academic institutions can be considered to be the powerhouses for generating intellectual property (IP). The extensive research facilities provided by higher academic institutions such as incubation centers, and research sponsored through university and industry partnerships serve as breeding grounds for various breakthrough inventions. Similarly, academic institutions may also give rise to developments in other areas of IP. This may be some literary work in the form of some songs or drama or film scripts or artistic works in the form of a sculpture or even a painting. The list is endless to enunciate the numerous possibilities of IP in any academic institution.

Recommendations of National IPR Policy, 2016

It is indeed the above reasons that may have inspired the drafters of National IPR policy to provide certain recommendations on how to encourage the generation of intangible assets in academic and R&D institutions. National IPR Policy also recommended encouraging researchers in public-funded academic and R&D institutions in generating IP assets by developing a harmonious link between research funding and career progression. It has been considered that the researchers can be encouraged by having uniform guidelines for the division of royalties between the organizations, individual researchers, and innovators. Moreover, the National IPR Policy has also suggested including IP as a key performance metric for public-funded R&D entities as well as Technology institutions. This metric system may be gradually extended to tier-1 and tier-2 institutions.

Ranking Method of NIRF

Simultaneously, IPR has played and continues to play an important role in the ranking of academic higher institutions. On 29.09.2015, the Ministry of Human Resource Development approved and launched the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).  In the year 2017, the NIRF published the Methodology for ranking academic institutions in India. In the methodology published by NIRF, patents play an important role as marks are given for filed, granted, and licensed patents. It has been observed that inter alia scores are provided for intellectual property rights. Pertinently, more scores are granted for licensed or granted patents in comparison to pending applications. Therefore, licensed or granted patents hold much more value than patent applications.

Implications on Academic Institutions

Possibly, this is one of the reasons which has incentivized the academic institutions to foray into giving importance to patent filings. As per the annual report published by the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications, Government of India for the year 2019-2020, Lovely Professional University and Indian Institute of Technology (collectively) have been amongst the top five patent applicants in the field of information technology in India. Moreover, there have been 10 academic institutions that have filed almost around 2500 patent applications before the Indian Patent Office.

Top 10 Indian Applicants for Patents
Top 10 Indian Patent Applicants among Academic Institutions and Universities Source: Annual Report 2019-2020

While publications are important for the dissemination of knowledge and relatively quick to publish, patent filings are equally important to claim ownership of one’s invention and that third parties without the consent of the owner should not be able to use it. Moreover, licensing or assignment of patents helps the inventor as well as the academic institutions to recoup the investments made for the invention. Patents unlike paper publications are not granted for any study or any development in science. On the other hand, a patent is granted in India only when an invention is able to satisfy the requirements of novelty, inventive step, and industrial applicability. In addition, an invention is also required to overcome the bar on the subject matter. More details regarding the patentability of any invention can be found in the article “What kind of Inventions can be Patented?”

What do we have to say?

While a lot of institutions understand the commercial importance of patents and the nuances as to how a patent is granted, many institutions are still under the mistaken impression that patents are only meant to uplift the rank of the institution. Moreover, these academic institutions are misguided and are not even informed about whether the inventions qualify for patent protection. In order to gain an edge in the ranking framework, these institutions also attempt to get patents at a very low cost. Despite the success of many institutions in this endeavour, they may not be able to reap all the advantages a patent application can offer. The most common reason for this is that most patents are not well drafted since they often lack the most essential feature, namely a proper claim. Generally, this happens as a result of patent applications being drafted in a hasty manner without much consideration.

We understand that the above is due to a lack of knowledge about patents among academic institutions. The importance of spreading awareness of patents and their advantages becomes apparent in such situations. It is also the professional’s responsibility to ensure that all possible rights of the patentee are secured in the patent application. By helping in such situations, we can avoid any misguidance and save on costs.

About The Author

Sutapa Jana

Sutapa Jana is an IP Attorney & Registered Patent/Trademark Agent.

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