On Software patents in India

The other day I was discussing with Venky from Red Hat about the software patent scene in India. He is very active and vocal in opposing the software patents in India.

Few important points that we discussed were –

1. Why patents should not be granted for any software, either independently or along with hardware?

The software is already protected by Copyright Laws. Why software should be given double protection and create more legal complications. The real problem in India is not lake of regulations and laws. The real problem is India has poor record in effectively enforcing and implementing these laws. Instead of more regulations and laws, we as a country should do more in effective implementation of existing regulations and laws. India will be better off with effective implementation of existing Copyright Laws rather then create more laws and regulations and further dilute effective enforcement and the better implementation of the existing laws.

2. Patents and standards.

India’s policy on granting and deny patents on methods, processes, algorithms etc. should be very strict. Our patent laws and manual strictly mandate that anything which is part of either Indian or international standards will not be granted any kind of patent(s) in India. The idea of standards is to foster competition and create free market. The intention of patents is to remove competition and create monopoly for the “/inventor/inventor”. Considering the mutually exclusive intentions of standards and patents, Indian patent office should reject all patent applications containing standards.

3. Patents for government funded research institutes.

Though this is not related to the software patents, it is important that draft manual clearly specifies that all patents created by government funded research is available under suitable open source license to all Indian citizens and Indian Organizations (minimum 51% Indian holding) at no license fees. All the government funded research is already paid for by Indian citizens by way of paying either direct or indirect taxes. Why the Indian citizens should pay twice to get the benefits from the inventions and innovation for which they have already paid in advance?

4. Making patent process more transparent

During my recent visit to Indian Patent Office web site, I found it very difficult to use. For an example – I was trying to read the Indian Patent Law and Amendments to law at various times. The text and changes are distributed in PDF files. Though the file format is good enough, there are back references and changes and deletion from previous text. Such a text can be best presented in HTML format which is more user friendly, instead of fixed unlinked PDF documents. Also, I am not sure if all the patent applications filed are accessible easily on-line.

5. Using open source processes in challenging the patent applications which are based on prior-art or violets the India Patent Laws.

There is a need to create a community which can keep a watch on the patent applications filed and ensure that wrong application are challenged in time to ensure that patent law is not violated in letter and spirit.

No single individual or organization will have resources to take such a huge challenge. However, a community approach will be more effective in taking on such a challenge.