Friday, July 25, 2008

Stakeholders Meeting on the Draft Patent Manual

Yesterday, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry hosted a "Stakeholders Meeting on the Draft Patent Manual." Around 70 people attended this meeting. The audience was a mix of lawyers, industry associations like CII, FICCI etc, civil society organizations and industry.

The pro-software patent lobby was pretty aggressive about their point of view. The body language made it apparent that they had come prepared for a fight. The main points of the pro-patents lobby (loosely paraphrased, since the discussion was happening so fast) were:

1) Patents will help Indian companies compete with the biggies globally
2) Indian companies are filing for patents abroad anyway, therefore we should have patents in India too.
3) Software patents are pro-innovation and should therefore be encouraged.

Prabir Purkayastha from the Knowledge Commons and myself represented the open source community. Prabir made the point that software is a form of mathematics and that merely applying it in a specific domain like image processing should not make it patentable. He also added that such patenting would be an incorrect interpretation of Section 3(K) which says that "a mathematical or a business method or a computer program per se or algorithms are not patentable."

At this point, the discussion became pretty heated and the chair of the meeting decided to call for a separate meeting on software patents. I'll keep you updated. Meanwhile, if there are open source supporters who are who can help us with the software patents issue, please let me know. If you happen to be based in New Delhi, that's even better! We need all the help we can get.


sayamindu said...

I'm not sure how I can help, but if you need any, please do let me know.

Anonymous said...

One thing to beware of in a political situation is arguing a purely theoretical point of view.

Software patents put actual developers of software at risk. As such, software patents in India are likely to destroy Indian software companies. At the same time, there is nothing to stop Indian companies from getting patents in the US and using those to destroy or steal profits from their US competitors.

By not having local patents, India only benefits, however, where there are no local patents, some bodies should exist to help getting patents in other countries. This is not only for the aggressive use above, but also because it becomes more difficult to export to a market if you don't have patents in that market.

By putting points like these, you can show to politicians that the lack of patents actually has practical benefits and is not just a matter of "theoretical freedom" (as they might wrongly call it).

Anonymous said...

I am in. Let us know what we Mumbai bhailog community can do.

Microsoft is acting too shaana lately.

Nandz said...

Anyone planning to go for this event in Mumbai? I'm planning to go, but need to team up with someone knowledgeable to prepare some sort of speech/document.

Thoughts from someone who has been to a previous meet of this kind?

Nandz said...

I believe the problem is with the guidelines given in section 4.11.6. However the clarifications given in 4.11.8 will wean out most useless software patents. Don't you think?