India Learns The Hard Way That Equating Patents And Innovation Comes At A Price
from the bankrupt-ideas dept
Last December, we wrote about China reaching a rather questionable milestone: filing one million patents in a single year. As Techdirt has pointed out repeatedly, more patents do not equate to more innovation, so simply filing huge numbers of patents means very little in itself. The government of India has just found this out the hard way. As The Hindu reports, CSIR-Tech, the commercialization arm of India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has had to shut down its operations. The reason? It's run out of money as a result of filing too many patents:
CSIR has filed more than 13,000 patents -- 4,500 in India and 8,800 abroad -- at a cost of ₹50 crore [about $7.7 million] over the last three years. Across years, that's a lot of taxpayers' money, which in turn means that the closing of CSIR-Tech is a tacit admission that its work has been an expensive mistake -- a mistake that we tax-paying citizens have paid for.
The Hindu explains that obtaining thousands of patents was not to protect innovative work, or even to boost licensing revenues. Instead, many scientists wanted to have a patent or two to their name in order to make their curriculum vitae look more impressive:
Recently, CSIR's Director-General Girish Sahni claimed that most of CSIR’s patents were "bio-data patents", filed solely to enhance the value of a scientist's resume and that the extensive expenditure of public funds spent in filing and maintaining patents was unviable. CSIR claims to have licensed a percentage of its patents, but has so far failed to show any revenue earned from the licences. This compulsive hoarding of patents has come at a huge cost. If CSIR-Tech was privately run, it would have been shut down long ago. Acquiring Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) comes out of our blind adherence to the idea of patenting as an index of innovation.
India's unfortunate experience is interesting because it shows how the erroneous view that patents are proof of innovation has led scientists to file applications for them purely out of vanity, with serious knock-on effects. Not only is there no evidence that the resulting patents were worth obtaining, but India's CSIR-Tech office has been forced to shut down as a direct result of applying for them.