Guwahati, Monday, September 30, 2019
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Patent Information Centre groaning under weight of myriad problems
Ajit Patowary
 GUWAHATI, Sept 29 - Its workload is increasing by the hour! Rendering service for free, it has helped muga, the unique golden silk yarn of the State, to wrest the Geographical Indication (GI) tag and a lot of technological innovations for the State’s innovators in securing patent registrations.

But during its 16-year-long existence, the Patent Information Centre (PIC) of the Assam Science, Technology and Environment Council (ASTEC) has been plagued by various problems relating to its organisational status.

The PIC was set up in 2003 by the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council of the Union Department of Science and Technology at the ASTEC.

It has so far filed 80 patent applications, 36 other Intellectual Property Right (IPR) applications, established five IPR Cells at Gauhati, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Assam, Don Bosco and Bodoland universities, prepared six research papers, held 304 IPR awareness workshops, camps, lectures etc. In the workshops, camps and lectures it has organised thus far, 62,089 people are on record to have attended as participants.

It has helped the Nalbari-based LOTUS and Guwahati-based CEE to jointly secure a GI tag for the magic rice Boka Chaul. It is now working on the GI tags for Assamese gamusa on behalf of the Assam Handloom and Textiles Directorate and for Assam Tea and nine other items on behalf of the State’s Industries and Commerce Department.

Since it was set up with annual grants from both the State and the Union governments on project-to-project basis, such an ad-hoc nature has not allowed it to acquire the status of a full-fledged centre. Therefore, its manpower has remained unstable. Its officials get trained, get experience of working in patent etc related matters and then shift to other organisations seeking job security and promotional avenues.

Obviously, the above mentioned state of affairs does not bode well for the PIC and the State Government as well.

On the other hand, the existing manpower of the PIC is overloaded with a plethora of work concerning the entire State, thus causing backlogs that may hamper timely application of IPRs.

Under such a situation, it is felt that to utilise the PIC to full level, the Government may upgrade it as an autonomous body with more manpower.

It may also be registered as a society of the State Government and allowed to work as an independent body for providing patent and other IPR-related services.

Considering the urgencies resulting under the IPR regime all over the globe, a specialised agency like the PIC should be strengthened to protect the intellectual property rights of the State’s innovators and the GI rights of the State’s unique natural and other products and its socio-cultural heritage.

It may be mentioned here that countries like the United States, Japan and South Korea have been extending full support to such centres to usher in more economic development.

ASTEC Director Dr Arup Kumar Mishra told this newspaper that the PIC needs more dedicated and regular manpower, independent identity and better financial resources to serve the State. Assam being a multi-cultural and multi-racial State, has more potential for GI because of the abundant community knowledge, rather than patents.

PIC covers every sector of the society like individuals, groups, government departments, IIT, NIT, universities, colleges, start-ups, firms, companies and MSMEs.

Unlike the National Innovation Foundation that deals with grassroot innovators, and not the college or higher educated innovators, and has less focus on IP awareness, grant and post-grant scenario; the PIC caters to one and all.

Moreover, unlike Intellectual Property Facilitation Centre (IPFC) of FICCI having only industry reach, PIC has no such barriers. Unlike the IP cells of institutions confined mainly to patent filing of own research only, PIC encompasses all stakeholders, Mishra said.

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