Published: 31st December 2021
Andhra University's role in ensuring AP touches 51 per cent growth rate in patent filing
From extensive awareness workshops to footing the patent filling bill — there is a lot Andhra University has done to help the culture of patent filing in AP
The annual report of Intellectual Property India Annual Report was released on December 30, 2021, by the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications, Government of India. As per the report, 56,267 patent applications were filed as opposed to 50,659 in 2018-19, which takes the growth rate to 11 per cent. But Andhra Pradesh's growth rate when it comes to filing patents is at a commendable 51 per cent. This year, the coastal state has filed 484 patents as opposed to 321 last year. Though this is not the highest growth rate nor is the state in the top three, the work that has gone behind getting the Telugu state, especially by Andhra University, here is extensive.
After United Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in 2014, most of the R&D institutes went to Telangana and with that, most of the ecosystem when it comes to patent filing. It was in 2020 that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry sanctioned a Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade - Intellectual Property Rights Chair for Andhra University, which became the IPR Nodal Agency of the state, and Dr Purushotham Hanumanthu took charge in December 2020. For the past one and a half years, the university has been carrying out extensive virtual awareness programmes, about 40 to 50 of them, for students and faculty members across the country. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
IPR is now a mandatory course at the university, especially for UG, PG and Engineering students and soon, it will be for PhD students too. "At the UGC level, one needs to get published in two to three peer-reviewed journals to earn a PhD, but at Andhra University, we took a decision that if anybody published a patent in the Indian Patent office journal, it is considered equivalent to a paper and the PhD is granted," shares Dr Hanumanthu, who pursued his BTech from Andhra University. They also launched an IPR policy which declared that the cost of filing and maintaining the patent for 20 years will be borne by the university, not by the research scholar or the faculty member. "The former Secretary of Higher Education appreciated the policy and encouraged us to propose that it be implemented as a state policy and hence, we sent it to the Government of Andhra Pradesh for adoption," he shares.
Patent agents, personnel whose help becomes indispensable when it comes to navigating the process of filing and defending patents, often try to extort huge amounts in the name of filing and guidance. Now, Andhra University has identified a few patent agents and all patents are routed through them. Even when it comes to the commercialisation of patents, Andhra University has set the ball rolling. "We have 20-25 patents as of now, all under different stages of the process. We prepared portfolios for the IPs, gave advertisements in local newspapers and social media so as to spark the interest of start-ups and companies. We received five to six inquiries and in a week's time, we will be signing the first technology transfer agreement for the commercialisation of one of our IPs," says the former Chairman and Managing Director of National Research Development Corporation (NRDC). There are other start-ups incubated at T-Hub in Hyderabad who have shown interest and the initial negotiations have commenced, he informs.
Though Dr Hanumanthu shares that the central government's move to reduce patent application fees by 80 per cent, meaning it goes from 4,24,500 to 85,000, for all recognised educational institutions is surely a much welcome one, 85,000 could still be a large amount for some. "To build an IP culture, the very first IP filed could be done for free. Also, apart from the fee, individuals need to pay fees for patent agents as well, which ranges from 50,000 to five lakh. There could be a structure in place for that as well. Lastly, state-level awards also might greatly help the cause and help the nation, as a whole, improve our innovation index. Also, more hackathons!" he says, offering suggestions for ways in which a sustainable IP culture can be built and maintained.
Dr Hanumanthu also informs that the university will have its own incubation centre soon which will be inaugurated shortly. The 20,000 square feet space, out of which 10,000 square feet is built and ready, will take the university's crusade for innovation further.