An original article on “Why to Patent & when not to patent”There has always been a debate on whether patenting is beneficial or harmful to the Society and themasses in general.While one can always analyse realms of data to argue either sides, what is most important is to lookat “evidence on the ground” and decide whether Patenting is indeed beneficial and under whatcircumstances.To provide some perspective, the Intellectual capability of a person which can be termed as‘Intellectual Capital’ has always been respected right from the Guru Shishya (Master & Student)tradition whereby the Guru was respected & rewarded by Shishya mostly in kind by taking care ofthe Guru’s personal needs and running chores for him but the Guru was never provided with largefinancial benefits.An analogy can be drawn with the current Education System in India, whereby Teachers have beenby and large not adequately compensated for their knowledge & values inculcated in Students at anearly age.This has led to a parallel “Coaching Class” system, where the Student pays a much larger amount ofmoney to the Coaching Class owners who are mostly Teachers to gain knowledge he or she issupposed to imbibe in School.So one way of looking at it is the failure of the current Education system to adequately compensateTeachers and provided due respect by the entire system comprising of Students, Administrators &the Govt.So ideally one can argue that Knowledge should be free and Intellectual Capital should be sharedwith one and all, the reality is the Intellectual Capital owner needs to be recognised and rewarded tothrive and benefit the Society.For any Technology Innovator, the quest to get recognition in any form and acceptance of his or heridea by the mainstream public is the biggest challenge and incentive.At the same time, financial reward which will help the Innovator invest back in his or her work andenjoy the fruits of hard work & intellect is equally important although it may not be explicitlyexpressed by them.A classic example of the same is the case of an eminent Scientist working with a leading Indianpharmaceutical company whereby he solved a tough chemistry problem posted onwww.innocentive.com leading to a cash award of USD 75,000 and a plaque.His employer took the stance that the Scientist used company’s time and resources to solve theproblem so he has no right to claim the money which went into the company’s a/c and he was leftonly with a plaque!!The Scientist was disillusioned by the treatment meted out by his Employer and the lack ofrecognition which prompted him to leave the company and join another competitor.
So when a Patent is granted for solving a technology problem it does certify the competency of theInnovator for his Intellectual Capital but how it does benefit the Society and layman.The most important benefit is the launch of a new product or process which improves the quality oflives of a certain segment of people in the Society which wouldn’t have been possible if there was noprotection for inventions leading to new products & technology.And directly related is the strong incentive to Scientists & Researchers who get an opportunity to berecognised as Inventors in the Patent and financial rewards shared by the organisation they workwith directly improving their productivity manifold.This is akin to the incentive enjoyed by Sales staff & Investment Bankers for bring new clients onboard and closing deals.Also it is very relevant in case of Govt. Research Labs where the technology commercialisation trackrecord is extremely poor and the same can get tackled in part by encouraging developing newtechnologies, patenting the same and partnering with Industry for commercialising the same leadingto a win-win scenario.Another benefit which gets often over looked is avoiding duplication of creation of new knowledgewhich is the foundation for the patent system. In short “Do not reinvent the wheel” but use “thewheel to create new & useful products”.Imagine, the kind of R&D money which is typically wasted to solve the same problem (For e.g.Biomass stove) but if there is a protocol which restricts development to ideas which are eitherpatentable or works on existing patents, R&D productivity will shoot up exponentially and a lot morerelevant products will hit the market shelves.And from a consumer point of view, patented products are perceived as superior which also helpsthe Marketer brand the product and differentiate from spurious products in the market.So to summarise, the key reasons to patent are: - 1. Commercialisation of technology / product 2. Marketing differentiator 3. Recognition to the Inventors 4. Sharing of new knowledge to avoid “reinvention of the wheel” thereby exponentially improving R&D productivity 5. Improving enterprise valueAnd when “not to patent” No intention to commercialise idea Do not want to directly make money from the ideaSo as the debate rages on, the focus should be on commercialisation and the subsequent benefitsfor the Society which outweighs all other factors.Author: Rajeev Surana, Founder & Director of Scinnovation Consultants Pvt. Ltd. can be reached onRajeev@scinnovation.in & rajeevsurana on Linkedin. Publication date: 15-Nov-2011