Navigating the Intellectual Landscape of India: An Overview of Patent Law

Navigating the Intellectual Landscape of India: An Overview of Patent Law


This research paper examines the patent law landscape in India in depth, providing a detailed study of its historical evolution, current framework, and future implications. The study begins by examining the historical evolution of Indian patent policy, noting major milestones and legislative modifications that have defined the country’s approach to intellectual property protection.

The central section of the study digs into the modern Patents Act, examining its essential clauses and explaining the procedural features of patent submission, inspection, and award. The latest modifications and their implications on patentability criteria, compulsory licensing, and the developing definition of patentable subject matter are given special consideration.
Furthermore, the study examines significant case law, including major decisions that have affected the interpretation and enforcement of patent rights in India. It investigates jurisprudential tendencies, emphasizing how the judiciary has influenced the growing contours of patent law. The research concludes with an outlook on the future trajectory of patent laws in India, considering ongoing discussions, proposed reforms, and the potential impact of emerging technologies on patent jurisprudence.
Keywords: Patent Law, Intellectual Property Rights, India, Patents Act 1970, Patentability, Grant Procedures, Enforcement Mechanisms, Legal Framework, Emerging Trends, Judicial Decisions.

A patent is a type of intellectual property right, similar to a trademark or copyright. The term “patent” comes from the Latin verb “patere,” which means “to lay open,” or “to make available for public inspection.” A patent is a license that grants the owner an exclusive right or title to prohibit others from creating, using, or selling an invention for a limited or specific length of time, and the violation of the patent holder’s exclusive rights or titles is known as patent infringement. The Patents Act of 1970 is the law that governs patents in India. The major goal of enacting the Patent Act is to encourage people to come up with innovative ideas in their sector by giving them exclusive rights to their creations.

Historical Evolution
The origins of patent law in India may be traced back to the colonial era when the British adopted Act VI of 1856, which was based on the British Patent Law of 1852. For 14 years, the innovators were awarded certain rights. Act VI was quickly revoked because it was enacted without the authority of the British Crown. With the passage of Act XV of 1859, the notion of “exclusive privileges” was introduced. The Act of 1859 was renamed “The Patterns and Designs Protection Act” in 1872, and it was primarily concerned with the protection of patterns. Over the following thirty years, no major changes were made to the Act, but in 1883, changes were made to the patent laws in the United Kingdom, and it was thought that those changes should be included in the Indian laws as well. The Indian Patents and Designs Act was enacted in 1911, and it superseded all earlier legislation. The Act of 1911 remained in effect until the Patents Act of 1970, with minor revisions made in 1920, 1930, and 1945.
Following independence, it was considered that the Indian Patents and Designs Act of 1911 was not meeting its objectives. Because of significant changes in the country’s political and economic conditions, it was determined that a modernized patent law was required. As a result, the Government of India established a committee chaired by Justice Bakshi Tek Chand. The committee was tasked with examining existing patent legislation and making suggestions for improvement, surveying and reporting on the country’s patent system, and suggesting any improvements that the committee believes are necessary for the implementation of an efficient patent system. In its interim report, the committee proposed changes to sections 22, 23, and 23A of the Patents and Designs Act of 1911. The committee also stated that patentees must be fairly compensated. The committee also stated that the Patents Act should include specific provisions to ensure that food, medication, surgical, and curative devices are supplied to the public at the lowest possible cost which resulted in the Act of 1911 being amended in 1950.
The Government of India created the Justice N. Rajagopala Ayyangar Committee in 1957 to investigate the possibility of revising the Patent Law and advise the government accordingly. The committee used a two-pronged approach in its report, with the first section dealing with broad issues of the law and the second focusing on the faults of the existing system and proposals for changes to the patent system. The committee’s suggestions sparked significant reforms in Indian patent law, ultimately leading to the Patents Act of 1970. On April 20, 1972, the Patents Act of 1970 and the Patents Rules of 1972 went into effect. The Patent Act of 1970 was amended in 2002 and 2005, and it has subsequently protected patentee rights across the country.2
Patentable Subject Matter
Sections 3 and 4 of the Indian Patents Act, 1970, clearly stated the exclusions on what can be patented in India. To secure a patent in India, various conditions must be met. They are:
• Patent Subject
Non-patentable subject matter is listed in Sections 3 and 4 of the Patents Act. Unless the Invention falls under any of the provisions of Sections 3 or 4, it is a patentable subject.
• Novelty
Innovation is a key element in determining an invention’s patentability. A novelty or new invention is defined as “no invention or technology published in any document before the date of filing of a patent application, anywhere in the country or the world” under Section 2(l) of the Patent Act. The whole specification, i.e. the subject matter has not entered the public domain or is not state of the art.”

• Inventive steps or non-clarity
Under Section 2(ja) of the Patents Act, the innovation should not be evident to a person skilled in the same field as the invention. It should not be innovative or obvious to someone skilled in the same subject.
• Capable of industrial application
Industrial applicability is defined as “the invention is capable of being made or used in an industry” in Section 2 (ac) of the Patents Act. This essentially says that the Invention does not exist in the abstract. It must be applicable in any industry, which means it must have practical utility in terms of patent.
Anything covered by Sections 3 and 4 of the Patent Act of 1970 is not patentable. This means that everything other than the topics covered in the following sections is patentable. A patent is valid for 20 years from the filing date of the patent application. A patent has a narrow scope of application. The patentee’s rights are only valid in the nation where the patent was awarded. To get patent protection in many countries, an application must be filed in each jurisdiction. To make this time-consuming task easier, the PATENT COOPERATION TREATY (PCT) provides a single application that allows a patentee to apply to multiple nations at the same time.
Rights and Obligations of Patentee
• Right to exploit patent: The Patentee has the exclusive right in India to use, exercise, sell, or distribute the patented product or substance, or to use or exercise the method or process if the patent is for a person. This right can be utilized by the patentee, his agent, or his licensees. The rights of the patentee are only exercisable during the life of the patent.
• Licensing authority: The patentee may transfer rights to give licenses or enter into other arrangements for consideration. To be genuine and valid, a license or assignment must be in writing and registered with the Controller of Patents.
• Surrender Rights: A patentee has the right to surrender his patent; however, before accepting the offer of surrender, a notice of surrender is sent to all persons whose names are registered in the register as having an interest in the patent, and their objections, if any, are considered. The surrender application is also published in the Official Gazette so that interested parties can object.
• Right to sue for infringement: The patentee has the right to initiate proceedings for patent infringement in a District Court with jurisdiction to hear the case.
• Government use of patent: The right to exploit a patent has its limitations as mentioned in Section 47 of the Patent Act, 1970 which includes government use of the patent. A patented innovation may be used or even acquired by the government for its purpose solely; however, the government may also restrict or ban the use of the patent under certain conditions.
• Compulsory License: If the patent is not satisfactorily worked to meet the legitimate needs of the public at a reasonable cost, the Controller may award compulsory licenses to any applicant to work the invention.
• Patent revocation: A patent may be withdrawn if there has been no work or if the public’s demand for the patented innovation has been poor.
• Invention for defense purposes: Such patents may be subject to particular confidentiality requirements, i.e. disclosure of the Invention may be restricted or prohibited by Controller orders.
• Restored Patents: Patents that have lapsed may be revived, provided that limited restrictions are imposed on the patentee’s right. The patent has no authority to take action for infringement if the infringement occurred between the date of the infringement and the date of the advertisement of the application for reinstatement. The patent has no authority to take action for infringement if the infringement occurred between the date of the infringement and the date of the advertisement of the application for reinstatement.3
Procedure for Obtaining a Patent
Once the application for a patent grant is filed, the Indian patent office must receive a request for examination of the application within 48 months of the date of priority of the application or the original date of filing of the application. After the application has been examined, the first examination report is released, and the applicant is allowed to respond to the objections expressed in the report. The applicant must comply with all requirements within 6 months of the issuance of the first examination report, which may be extended for an additional 3 months only at the applicant’s request, and if all requirements of the first examination report are not met within the prescribed period of nine months, the application is considered abandoned by the applicant. Once all objections have been resolved and all conditions have been met, the patent is awarded and published in the Patent Office Journal.
Patent Infringement

Patent infringement refers to the unauthorized use of a patented invention without the permission of the patentee. This can involve various actions, including:
• Making: Manufacturing, constructing, or creating the patented invention.
• Using: Employing the patented invention for any purpose, even if not commercially.
• Offering for sale or selling: Providing the patented invention for sale or exchange, including offering it online.
• Importing: Bringing the patented invention into India from another country.
There are two types of patent infringement.

  1. Direct Infringement
    Direct infringement occurs when a product that is substantially similar to a patented product or innovation is promoted, sold, or used commercially without the owner of the protected product or invention’s consent.
  2. Indirect Infringement
    Indirect infringement occurs when some deception or inadvertent infringement occurs without any intent to infringe.
    Remedies for patent infringement
    Section 108 of the act addresses the reliefs that a court may issue in any complaint for infringement, which include an injunction subject to such terms, if any, as the court deems appropriate and, at the plaintiff’s choice or option, either damages or an account of profits. The court may also order that the goods found to be infringing, as well as materials and implements whose primary use is in the creation of infringing goods, be seized, forfeited, or destroyed, as the court deems appropriate under the circumstances of the case.4
    Landmark Judgements
    The Indian patent landscape has been shaped by several landmark judgments that have clarified legal ambiguities, established new principles, and impacted the balance between innovation and public welfare. Here are some of the most noteworthy cases:
  3. Tata Motors Ltd. vs. Anand Motors (2005): This Supreme Court judgment dealt with the doctrine of equivalents, which allows infringement claims against products that perform the same function as a patented invention even if they don’t employ the same technical features. The court established a balanced approach, recognizing the need for protection against unfair copying while avoiding stifling innovation through overly broad interpretations of patent claims.5
  4. Novartis v. Union of India (2013): This landmark judgment redefined the criteria for patentability of pharmaceutical inventions. The Supreme Court held that incremental changes to existing drugs lacking enhanced efficacy did not qualify as patentable inventions under Section 3(d) of the Patents Act. This decision paved the way for affordable access to essential medicines and challenged the monopolistic tendencies of pharmaceutical giants.6
  5. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. vs. Cipla Ltd. (2008): This case dealt with the first-ever patent litigation in India after the introduction of product patents for pharmaceuticals. The Supreme Court established the importance of public interest considerations in patent infringement cases, allowing Cipla to continue manufacturing a generic version of Roche’s cancer drug at a significantly lower price. This judgment affirmed the right to affordable healthcare and highlighted the need for equitable access to patented medicines.7
    In conclusion, the exploration of India’s intellectual landscape, with a dedicated focus on its patent law, has unveiled a rich tapestry of historical evolution, legislative intricacies, and judicial dynamics. The journey through time, from the colonial-era foundations to the contemporary legal framework, underscores the nation’s commitment to fostering innovation while safeguarding public interests.
    The historical trajectory, marked by transformative milestones such as the Patents Act of 1970 and subsequent amendments, illustrates a conscious effort to strike a delicate balance between domestic imperatives and international obligations. Landmark judicial decisions have played a pivotal role in shaping the contours of patent law, emphasizing the nuanced interplay between the rights of innovators and the imperative to ensure broad societal benefit. These legal precedents contribute to a jurisprudential foundation that is both responsive to evolving technological landscapes and protective of public welfare.
    Contemporary challenges, such as the access to essential medicines and concerns about evergreening, highlight the ongoing need for a nuanced and context-specific approach to patent law. The delicate equilibrium between promoting innovation and safeguarding public welfare remains a focal point, presenting an opportunity to evolve legal mechanisms that encourage a robust innovation ecosystem.
    As India continues to navigate its intellectual landscape, the synthesis of historical perspectives, legislative frameworks, judicial decisions, and global influences underscores the complexity of the patent system. This research contributes to a nuanced understanding of the multifaceted dimensions inherent in shaping and sustaining innovation within the bounds of legal frameworks. Ultimately, the ongoing evolution of India’s patent law reflects not only the nation’s commitment to technological progress but also its dedication to ensuring that the benefits of innovation are distributed equitably for the collective betterment of society.

Author: Sharanya Agarwal, student of Amity University, Lucknow.

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