By Simon Webster ‑ September 28, 2017
Patent offices in India are setting a new trend. According to an article on the Times of India website, a patent was issued to a pharmaceutical company – Optimus Drugs – in just 113 days. Previously, patents in India have taken five to seven years to be granted, but a provision under amended patent rules in 2016 sought to fast-track the process by shortening the time between filing and publication to as little as two years.
Following the trend, the USPTO issued guidance last year with the aim of ensuring patent applications could be granted within 12 months of filing under certain circumstances. Such advances are crucial to ensure that the granting of intellectual property rights is more closely aligned with the pace of innovation in the digital age.
That is not to say that examination of patent applications should not be a thorough task. It should. The consequences of less thorough examination of IP applications will be more costly litigation and a slowing down of innovation. But, instantly licensable patents can radically shift business strategies, especially in fast-moving industries like high tech.
Speedier applications also address the issue of risk. Businesses can only act against potential infringers when the patent has been issued. A cautious company would be wise to wait until patent issue before exposing itself to this risk, but this slows the pace of development and, in cases such as pharmaceutical companies, could mean that clinical trials are delayed with patients unable to benefit from new breakthroughs.
The pace of innovation has never been more frenetic, driven by the democratisation of innovation tools and the ready availability of on demand computing. In fact, this was the subject of a white paper I authored last year.
Currently, much of what makes the patent approval process slow is examining the patent against previous applications. This is a huge task, but technology has a significant role to play. Big data analytics combined with machine learning is already being used by supermarkets to analyse stock requirements, based on millions of transactions. Financial institutions are already deploying the same tools to identify the small number of fraudulent transactions amongst millions of legitimate trades. The same technology can be deployed to manage the huge volumes of data associated with managing patent searching to vastly reduce the time taken to conduct this task.
The increased pace from patent application to patent issue is good news for innovation, and the industry’s ambition should be to ruthlessly drive this down further still. Issuing patents in 100 days should be the norm for the IP industry – not a new record.
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