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Dr. Sujatha Maringanti
Patent Associate,
Hyderabad, India

Dr.Sujatha Maringanti’s interest is in pharmaceuticals, particularly biopharmaceuticals. She received a Master’s degree in Genetics from Osmania University and a Master’s degree in Microbiology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Her doctoral work is in Molecular Biology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has an LL.B degree from Osmania University. Her work experience includes more than a decade of research and teaching in the field of molecular biology and an equal number of years as a patent analyst and an independent patent consultant. She had initiated and built systems for Biologics Patent Cell of Dr.Reddy’s Laboratories Limited. For the past decade, she has been running an independent consultancy which serves the needs of the organizations with respect to patentability, Freedom To Operate (FTO) and validity opinions etc.

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Mangalam Associates

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Sr Director at startup

I am the founder of a technology start-up. My start-up has come up with new inventions which we are seeking to protect. We find the process of patenting expensive. Though we would like to protect our inventions, we are not sure about the benefits of filing patents. How does a start-up manage its intellectual property in a cost-effective way?

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Dr. Feroz Ali, Founder of answered:

A patent is a 20-year investment which starts off by filing a patent application, which eventually matures into a granted patent that needs to be kept alive by paying annual renewal fees. A granted patent allows the patent holder to stop others from doing things covered by the patent, i.e., the patent gives the patent holder an exclusive right. Before filing a patent, you have to make a cost-benefit analysis on the resources and time that you will expend in protecting the invention and the revenue you will be able to earn through the patents. For start-ups, the revenue could be in the form of future investments. Start-ups have to wisely manage their resources when it comes to filing patents. If they have many inventions in the pipeline, they will have to take a call on prioritising the inventions that need to be protected first. Even for the inventions that the start-ups feel should be protected by a patent, due-diligence needs to be done. Due-diligence can cover two aspects, the strength of the invention (compared to existing knowledge) and the industry practices (compared to what others have patented).

The strength of the invention refers to the ability of the invention to receive patent protection after official scrutiny by the Patent Office. To determine the strength, the invention needs to be compared with what has gone before in that field of knowledge. The Patentability Search Report can determine whether the subject matter will merit a patent, i.e., the subject matter is not an excluded matter and that it satisfies the requirements of novelty, inventive step and industrial application. Once a patentability search report is procured, which usually costs much less than the charges for drafting and filing a patent, a start-up will know the chances of the application materialising into a granted patent. This is important as start-ups need to make their investments carefully. Though some start-ups may file patents to boost their valuation, they should understand that there are tools by which investors can determine the strength of the patent covering the invention.

The industry practices is another key information that start-ups need to know before venturing into filing patents. This can be done by procuring a Patent Landscape Report to determine what others have done and to see the overall patenting activity in their field. The amount of players and the number of patents in a particular field of technology could itself be an indicator of how the players in the field consider the significance of patent protection.

Start-ups should ideally team up with service providers who can do the due diligence and the patent filing at an affordable cost. For this, the start-ups should identify service providers who will offer the due-diligence as a part of the patent services package. The danger of not doing a due diligence could result in costs that the start-up may never be able to recover.

I am a professor from an engineering college who is in charge of Intellectual Property activities. Our colleagues and research students do not engage in serious research and as a result we find that there may not be anything that comes out of our institution which can be patented. But we feel the pressure of focussing on intellectual property and we conduct workshops and awareness programmes. How do we make our colleagues and research scholars focus on quality research?

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Dr. Feroz Ali, Founder of answered:

Intellectual property rights, like patents, protects the output of research. The input for research are the resources that go into it, what the industry refers to as Research and Development costs (includes people, funds and facilities). The innovative potential of an organisation can be measured by looking at the investments made in research and by looking at the output of research, such as research publications, patents, incubated companies that result for research etc. For organisations that are not able to make substantial investments into research (the input part), the focus should be on building a culture that facilitates and encourages research. Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) can benefit from mentoring programmes where young faculty members and research scholars can brainstorm with established academics from other institutions and gain from their experience. HEIs should focus on inviting accomplished academics and interacting with them. Institutional mentoring is important as well, as we can see in the case of the old IITs mentoring the new ones. It’s not surprising that some of the new IITs have figured conspicuously in the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) despite being established only a few years ago.