The drive to innovate has been part of humankind since time immemorial. It is not just our ability to dream, but our ability to make these dreams a reality that has transformed the world. In our modern world, intellectual property rights play a key role in rewarding the challenging process of translating new ideas into products, services and solutions.
Today, we are on the threshold of a promising new chapter in global innovation, where fresh scientific and technological advances – particularly in the areas of deep science and digital technologies – have the potential to recast our economies and create new opportunities for people and businesses around the world.
Global Rise, Local Development
Driven by these developments, we are seeing more economies and enterprises turn to innovation, creativity and IP to power future growth. As a result, the geography of innovation is changing. WIPO data reveals that seven out of ten IP applications now come from Asia, Africa and Latin America, up from five in ten a decade ago.
India is an important driver of this shift. In 2021, the country became the sixth largest receiving office for national patent applications in the world. It is well positioned to become the fourth largest receiving office of trademark applications in the world. And the number of designs in applications rose by a further 70 per cent last year, the second fastest rate of growth globally.
India is pressing its foot to the IP accelerator. As recently as 2006, less than 100,000 trade mark applications were filed in India. Today, that number has surged to almost 500,000. Local patenting activity is also powering ahead, with the number of resident patent filings rising almost three times in the past ten years.
Soaring IP filings are a testament to the high priority India places on supporting innovation-driven growth. There are a number of defining moments in this journey, starting with the Make India Initiative in 2014, through to the development of the National IPR Policy in 2016. Broadly speaking, these and other measures have helped initiate a shift towards generating IP domestically and enhancing a culture of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.
For instance, Bollywood now produces more films than Hollywood, with the country’s creative economies estimated to be a USD 30 billion industry. This has seen the sector become a significant source of employment, providing jobs for around 8 percent of the labor market. Projections also suggest that the creative sector employs more women and youth than the non-creative sectors of the economy.
India has also made remarkable progress within the Global Innovation Index (GII), WIPO’s annual report on the state of world innovation. India has risen from 81st position in 2015 to 40th place this year – underlining its position as the top performing country in its income group and as the most innovative economy in Central and Southern Asia.
This progress translates into jobs and growth. In 2021, Indian companies received almost USD 40 billion in venture capital investment, up more than 200 percent year-on-year. India also saw the largest increase in intangible asset value last year, up nearly USD 1.5 trillion. While the number of startups has grown from around 500 in 2016 to over 70,000 today.
People, Knowledge and Growth
Policies such as Startup India, Digital India and the Atal Innovation Mission, underscore the high priority that Prime Minister Modi, the Government of India and other key stakeholders place on creating a culture of innovation across India’s business community.
This has been bolstered by the steps taken to strengthen the national IP ecosystem in recent years, including the expediting of patent grants in new technology areas, as well as the hiring of more examiners to improve the timeliness of grants. It is notable that over 90 percent of IP applications are now filed electronically, highlighting that the online filing systems have become a trusted fixture of the IP landscape.
India has also taken steps to increase IP knowledge, particularly among youth. The National IP Awareness Mission has delivered IP training to over a million students in almost 4,000 educational institutions. India is also the largest single user of the WIPO Academy, our global center for IP education, training and skills building.
In addition, India is among the few economies to have established a domestic innovation index. The India Innovation Index, inspired by the GII, is a powerful tool for boosting innovation performance across Indian states and union territories, and is a policy initiative that other countries are studying closely.
This is not to say that the India’s IP journey is complete however. India is still outside of the world’s top 20 when patent applications are measured on a GDP basis and only one in ten Indian trademark filers sought protection abroad last year.
Inclusivity is another area that requires attention. Currently, women inventors file only around 10 percent of PCT applications. This is below the global average of 16.5 percent and behind other fast-growing economies such China and Türkiye, where women account for around a quarter of PCT applications.
Set against a challenging global backdrop, it is vital that India reaffirms its support for innovation and IP. Continued investment, coupled with pro-innovation policies and close attention to how innovation creates economic and social impact, will help to sustain the impressive gains of recent years.
With this in mind, allow me to share three areas where WIPO stands ready to step up our work together.
First, supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to harness IP for growth. SMEs make up 95 percent of Indian enterprises and provide employment to over 100 million people. Practical support, such as that provided by WIPO’s IP Diagnostic Toolkit can help more businesses understand how their IP assets are connected to business strategy. WIPO is also developing a program to streamline the patent application process for SMEs and demystify the patent approval process.
Second, support for knowledge and technology transfer. The journey from research to product is challenging, and getting economic outcomes from research investments requires technical knowledge, deep expertise and close connections between researchers, businesses and government. With our partners in country, WIPO has established a network of a dozen Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISCs) to build relevant knowledge and expertise across India. We hope to expand this network in the years ahead and add to the more than 600 patent applications that TISCs have helped file.
Third, bringing IP to the grassroots. By introducing courses such as “IP for Startups” and “IP for apps and videogame producers”, we have broadened the scope of the WIPO Academy and its focus on strengthening the kind of practical IP skills that will help Indian innovators and creators turn their ideas into reality. We will also continue to build momentum behind closing the IP gender gap. This will be the theme of next year’s World IP Day, on 26 April, and we look forward to working with our partners across India to drive progress on this critical issue.
Over the last decade, India’s IP and innovation story has been one of tremendous growth. As we enter a new era of opportunity, it is time to bring the benefits of IP to all Indians. This is the best way of ensuring that IP and innovation remain powerful catalysts for growth and development and that India becomes a global IP and innovation powerhouse.
This article is by Mr Daren Tang, Director General, World Intellectual Property Organization. It was first published in CII’s IP Fash 2023