BENGALURU: Nearly eight out of every ten patent applications filed in India in more than a decade have been by foreigners residing abroad. A majority are by foreign firms, even as the number of Indian applications is slowly increasing.
More than 5.1 lakh patent applications were filed in the country between 2005-06 and 2017-18 according to the data compiled by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) as part of the latest Science & Technology Indicators (STI 2019-20) released last month.
And, an analysis of the data shows that more than 76% of these applications were filed by “foreigners resident abroad”, as the government classifies them and the rest were by “Indians.”
This is a trend experts say India must arrest. “We have to be more innovative,” Biocon Ltd executive chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said.
A senior defence scientist told TOI that India does not lack talent and that even investments are improving, especially in the private sector. He said India lacked the right ecosystem. The TOI had reported last month about how R&D investments by the private sector has been growing at twice the rate of public/government investment.
In March 2016, noted scientist Prof CNR Rao, who has consistently batted for increased funding for science and had remarked: “Researchers are relaxing with too much furniture!”
Among the patents filed by foreigners, most are individuals or companies from the US, Japan and Germany, accounting for more than 45% of the patents in the said period, while the UK, France, Switzerland, Russia, Netherlands and Italy also had hundreds of applications filed.
With nearly 1.4 lakh applications, patents filed by those from the US alone accounted for more than 27% of total applications filed in the said period.
Former Isro chairman K Kasturirangan, who also headed India’s committee on new education policy told TOI: “…We need to really improve research content at major institutions and particularly at the 900-odd universities in the country. We have to make sure that pure research becomes part of applied research, which goes into translational and industrial research. Unless this four-pronged attack is made on research to create more innovation and ideas, the question of patent doesn’t arise.”
In fact, the proposal for the National Research Foundation (NRF) in the education policy, he said, is the reflection of concerns about some of these outcomes of research. “I hope that we improve research as fast as we can and create an environment that leads to an ecosystem of more innovation and products that are patentable,” he added.
Qualcomm, Huawei Top Foreign Cos
The STI-2019-20 also provides data on top foreign companies filing patents in the five years between 2013-14 and 2017-18. Analysis shows that most of the top 19 companies were tech and telecom firms, including Chinese MNC Huawei Technologies.
Qualcomm Incorporated—an American semiconductor and telecommunications equipment firm — tops the table with 6,960 applications, followed by Dutch multinational firm Koninklijke Philips, which had 3,670 applications.
The TOI had reported in July 2018 on how Qualcomm alone had filed more than twice the number of patents than the collective number of applications from 50 labs under the DRDO, 38 labs under CSIR, 23 IITs, 31 NITs, more than 40 labs in the IISc and six major research facilities under Isro, in 2016-17.
Aside from these two firms, Huawei had filed 1,393 patents in the said period, while other big firms like Google, Microsoft Technology Licencing, Siemens, Robert Bosch and others also filed hundreds of applications.


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