India is limiting its own innovation by sitting on a huge pile of pending patent applications

Time’s a-wasting.
Time’s a-wasting.
Image: Reuters/Amit Dave
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The Indian government is sitting on a growing pile of pending applications for patents and trademarks due to a staffing shortage.

According to data shared on Nov. 30, the Indian government currently has 246,495 pending applications for patents (up from 226,339 in July) and more than half a million pending applications for trademarks.

Most of the backlog comes down to insufficient staffing. The government is trying to fill 459 vacant posts for examiners of patents and designs, Indian commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. As a short-term measure, the government has created 263 posts on a contractual basis and has also proposed amendments to patent and trademark rules to streamline the procedures for filing and processing applications, she said.

Between April and October this year, the Indian government granted 3,581 patents and registered 37,799 trademarks. It rejected 605 patent applications and 6,543 trademark registrations during the same period. That activity did little to loosen the logjam, which has worsened in recent years given a surge in patent and trademark applications.

Despite being home to the research and development centers of several multinational companies, India didn’t even figure on Bloomberg’s 2014 ranking of the 50 most innovative countries, which is based in part on patent activity along with factors like R&D intensity, high-tech density, and manufacturing capability.

The US, which ranked fifth for patent activity (and the third most innovative overall, after South Korea and Sweden), granted more than 326,000 patents last year, in comparison to just 4,227 granted by India.