Safeguarding Innovation: Government’s Focus on Startups’ Intellectual Property Protection
Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are an essential component for innovative startups to develop their products. It is for this reason that legal support and fast-tracking patent examinations at lower costs were included as one of the key action points under the ‘Simplification and Handholding’ pillar in the Startup Action Plan 2016. Towards this, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has taken several initiatives, the most significant of which was the ‘Scheme for Facilitating Startups Intellectual Property Protection (SIPP or the Scheme).’
SIPP is a flagship scheme of the DPIIT introduced to foster innovation and entrepreneurship by providing a supportive ecosystem for startups to protect and manage their IP assets. The Scheme aims to create awareness about the importance of IPR protection and provides financial support for filing IPR in order to enable easy IPR registration from the stage of application to the final disposal. The Scheme is implemented through a network of facilitators that are registered with the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (CGPDTM) and are empanelled for this purpose.
The policy focus on IP promotion has led to India leaping ahead on the Global Innovation Index (GII) published by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. India now holds the 40th position on the GII and has been acknowledged as the record holder for being an ‘Innovative Achiever’ for the 12th consecutive year.
Overview of the SIPP Scheme
Launched in 2016 on a pilot basis for a year, SIPP has now been in effect for 7 years and has extended in three parts as a consequence of the positive impact of the scheme.
In September 2019, the Scheme was made applicable to all Indian innovators/creators using the services of the World Intellectual Property Organizations (WIPO) Technology and Innovation Support Centres (TISCs). These TISCs were established through a cooperative agreement between the DPIIT, Government of India, and WIPO in 2018. The TISC provides access to locally based, high-quality technology information, helping Indian applicants exploit their innovative potential and create, protect, and manage their IPR better.
Further with the intent to encourage facilitators to provide quality services to eligible applicants, fees for facilitators were revised and increased by at least 100 per cent under the Scheme in November 2022.
SIPP has been extended till 2026. The revised iteration of the Scheme envisages the facilitation of IP of all Indian innovators. As a result, it expands the scope of the eligible applicant under the ‘Scheme from Startups’ to include Indian innovator/ creator who files an IP application through any TISC established in India, and government educational institutions. The Scheme also focuses on promoting and protecting Indian innovations globally. Accordingly, Indian applicant filing an international patent application as Receiving Office, India or International Bureau, WIPO electing India as International Search Authority are also covered by the revised SIPP scheme.
Key provisions of the Scheme
Highlights of SIPP are highlighted in the section below. The parts highlighted in italics have been added in the 2023 iteration of the Scheme.
1. Eligible applicants: Four types of applicants are eligible under the SIPP scheme.
- Any startup recognised by DPIIT pursuant to notification no. G.S.R. 127(E), dated 19th February 2019, as may be amended from time to time. Startups will be required to give a self-declaration that they have not availed funds under any other Government scheme for the purpose of paying the facilitator/ patent agent/ trademark agent for filing and prosecuting their IP application.
- Any Indian innovator/ creator who files an IP application through any TISC established in India and facilitated by a facilitator. However, the innovator/ creator will be required to give a self-declaration that they have not availed funds under any other Government scheme for the purpose of paying the facilitator/ patent agent/ trademark agent for filing and prosecuting their IP application.
- Any Indian educational institute fulfilling conditions specified in clause (f) and clause (h) of sub-rule (1) of Rule 24C(1)(f) and Rule 24C(1)(h) of Patents Act, 1970 that files an IP application through any TISC established in India. However, the educational institute will be required to give a self-declaration that they have not availed funds under any other Government scheme for the purpose of paying the facilitator/ patent agent/ trademark agent for filing and prosecuting their IP application.
- Eligible Indian applicant filling an international patent application as Receiving Office, India (RO/IN) or International Bureau, WIPO (RO/IB), electing India as International Search Authority (ISA)
2. Facilitators: Facilitators were empanelled by the CGPDTM under the Scheme for effective implementation. A facilitator could be:
- Any Patent Agent registered with the CGPDTM.
- Any Trademark Agent registered with the CGPDTM.
- Any Advocate as defined under The Advocates Act, 1961 who is entitled to practice law as per the rules laid down by Bar Council of India from time to time, who is well versed with the provisions of the relevant Acts and Rules and is actively involved in filing and disposal of applications for trademarks.
- A government department/ organization/ agency or CPSU (like TIFAC, NRDC, BIRAC, MeitY, CSIR, Patent Information Centres (PICs) through an authorised representative; and TISC in accordance with DPIIT Notification No. 5/1 /2017-CIPAM, dated 19.11.2018.
Eligible applicants willing to file an application under the Scheme can directly contact any of the facilitators available. The list of facilitators can be viewed at: https://ipindia.gov.in/Facilitators-Patents.htm
3. Functions and duties of facilitators: On a pro bono basis, facilitators will be responsible for:
- Providing general advisory on different intellectual property rights;
- Providing information on protecting and promoting IPRs in other countries;
- Providing assistance in filing to disposal of the IP applications related to patents, trademarks and designs under relevant Acts at the national IP offices under the CGPDTM;
- Providing assistance in filing of an international patent application by an eligible applicant filed before RO/IN or International Bureau, RO/IB, electing India as an ISA;
- Drafting provisional & complete patent specifications and an ISA patent application for inventions;
- Providing assistance in filing to disposal of International Trademark application originating from India under the Madrid Protocol;
- Preparing and filing responses to search & examination reports and other queries notices or letters by the IP office, India or WIPO;
- Appearing on behalf of an eligible applicant at hearings, as may be scheduled;
- Contesting opposition, if any, by other parties; and
- Ensuring final disposal of the IPR application.
4. Fees: The SIPP scheme provided that the facilitator shall not charge anything from the eligible applicant. The facilitators shall be paid the fees directly by the Central government through the office of the CGPDTM. However, eligible applicants have to bear the following statutory fees:
- Fees payable for each patent, trademark or design applied for by an eligible applicant
- In case of an ISA application for a patent, the cost of Patent Cooperation Treaty fees (transmittal fee, international filing fees, search fees etc.)
- In case of an International Trademark application, the cost of fees and payments under Madrid System.
The widened scope of the revised scheme, along with other government efforts to introduce structural reforms to strengthen the IPR regime including the modernisation of the IP office, reducing legal compliances, and facilitating IP filing for startups, women entrepreneurs, small industries, and others will further enhance the IPR ecosystem in India and help it improve its global position as an innovating nation.
More information about the SIPP scheme can be found at: https://ipindia.gov.in/SIPP.htm