Patents perform an essential role in stimulating inventions by providing an incentive for expensive investments and long-term research. Patents also contribute to society by gathering and making available human endeavor and knowledge. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) was signed between countries in 1970 and last modified in 1984. This treaty seeks patent protection simultaneously in the signatory countries after conducting an international search through the national and international offices.
A recent article by an international business professor, C. Gopinath speaks of an American patent for a cardboard sleeve used to hold hot paper cups in restaurants. The author feels that patents of this kind have very little value addition. Such patent licenses are practically ‘permission to use a piece of cardboard around their paper cups’. Do patents of this kind make sense? In another case a French firm Polypap was taken to court by the US firm Southpac on grounds of ‘Patent infringement’. Both companies manufacture flower holders as substitutes for vases.
Filing patents is a costly process and defending them, equally costly. Patent rules should perhaps pay more attention to the nature of the patented product or service. Patented products and services should be those, which add value and not frivolous matters, which often are of little value to anybody but the patentee who makes a quick buck. World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) talks of patents as ‘enriching the total body of technical knowledge’ and ‘furthering creativity and innovation’. Patents like the above do neither.
While patents protect the individual creator, the public interest needs to be kept in view. The new Indian Patent Rules have been facing objections from international sources.
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