US-based technology company General Electric is looking to increase patent filings from its research and development centres in India, along with those in China and Brazil, as the intellectual property (IP) regimes are strengthened in these countries.
According to Sukla Chandra, director (legal, patents and analytics), John F Welch Technology Centre (JFWTC), India is a focus area for the company now and is the largest single centre in terms of number of employees in R&D and largest IP group.
The JFWTC, which started in 1999, accounted for 1,400 patents so far. The company received 3,000 patents last year, and has a total of 30,000 active patents.
She said the company would monetise IP through development of its own product lines and by licensing the technologies to outside partners. IP was also an important consideration in mergers and acquisitions for GE.
The company was also open to 'open innovation', which is innovation made by outside individuals or companies, she said. "For example, under open innovation, we provided $200 million to a small company for a smart-grid technology along with a venture capital fund. Later GE acquired it for the IP," Chandra said.
It has also started competitions for engineering and science students, called Edison challenge, which a team from Banaras Hindu University won last year. The company employs close to 5,500 engineers in India, 4,000 of them in Bangalore, 1,200 in Hyderabad and the rest in Mumbai.
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'India needs a robust IP law'
With the opening up of the economy to international trade and the primacy of knowledge in the economy, traditional intellectual property is more susceptible to infringement, said Justice Prabha Sridevan, chairperson, Intellectual Property Appellate Board.
In this context, India needs a robust IP law, she said in her inaugural address at a CII conference on best practices in intellectual property management.
According to her, the IP law lags behind the technological growth, but even as it exists, the adjudication needs to be strong and delays should be avoided given that these grant an exclusive right to market for a short period.
The Indian patent laws, including the amended Indian Patents Act, have public interest as an important component. She said their objective makes it clear that the patents should not prevent the government from taking measures as part of its constitutional duty.