India is known for its vibrant and diverse innovation ecosystem. From IT and biotech to engineering and manufacturing, Indian innovators have significantly contributed to global technology and knowledge. However, not all inventions are created equal when it comes to patents. In India, specific types of inventions don’t qualify for patent protection. In this blog, we’ll discuss India’s Patent Exclusions the 4 categories and what they mean for inventors.
What are Patent Exclusions?
When discussing patents, it is essential to understand that not all inventions are eligible for patent protection. Patent exclusions refer to the types of inventions or discoveries not eligible for patent protection. These exclusions are typically put in place to ensure that patents are only granted for truly innovative inventions that are not contrary to public policy.
The concept of patent exclusions is not unique to India. Most countries around the world have their own sets of exclusions. For example, in the United States, laws prohibit patents on laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas. Similarly, in Europe, patents are not granted for inventions contrary to public policy or morality, inventions that are incapable of industrial application, and certain types of biological inventions.
In India, the patent law specifies four categories of patent exclusions. These categories are in place to protect the public interest and promote innovation that benefits society. Understanding these categories is crucial for inventors looking to protect their innovations through patent protection. By knowing what kinds of inventions are excluded, inventors can save time and money on filing patent applications that will not be granted.
Inventions that are frivolous or contrary to public order
The first category of patent exclusions in India is broad and encompasses various inventions deemed frivolous or contrary to public order. This category is in place to ensure that patents are not granted for inventions that are not truly innovative or are against public policy.
In this context, ‘ frivolous’ refers to inventions of little or no practical use, and their sole purpose is to entertain or amuse. These inventions do not meet the criteria for patentability, which requires an invention to have practical utility and be capable of industrial application.
In addition to frivolous inventions, India’s first category of patent exclusions also includes inventions contrary to public order. This includes inventions that are offensive to public morality or against public policy.
For instance, an invention that promotes illegal activities, such as a method of performing a criminal act, would not be eligible for patent protection. Similarly, an invention that promotes racial discrimination or violence against a particular group would also be excluded from patentability.
Inventions considered harmful to the environment or public health may also fall under this category. For example, an invention that involves the use of a toxic substance or a method of disposing of hazardous waste may be excluded from patent protection. This exclusion is in place to ensure that the granting of patents does not lead to actions that harm the environment or public health.
Inventions that are discoveries of living things or processes of living things
The second category of patent exclusions in India includes inventions that are discoveries of living things or processes of living things. This category aims to protect natural resources, ensure that living organisms are not treated as commodities, and prevent the exploitation of life forms.
This exclusion is especially important in biotechnology, where researchers and companies may attempt to patent naturally occurring organisms or their genetic information. For example, a company may try to patent a specific strain of bacteria naturally occurring in the soil. This would not be permissible under India’s patent laws.
Many indigenous communities in India deeply understand the medicinal properties of various plants and herbs. If these plants and herbs could be patented, it would prevent these communities from using their traditional knowledge to develop medicines. It would allow corporations to profit from their knowledge without giving them credit or compensation. This exclusion is also in place to prevent the exploitation of indigenous people and their knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs.
It’s important to note that while discoveries of living things and processes of living things cannot be patented. Inventions that use living organisms or their genetic material in a new and non-obvious way can still be patented. For example, if a company develops a new process for using naturally occurring bacteria to break down waste materials. It may be able to patent the process itself.
Inventions that are mere discoveries of a new form of a known substance
The third category of inventions not eligible for patent protection in India is mere discoveries of a new form of a known substance. This category applies when an inventor discovers a new form or structure of a substance that is already known. For example, if a chemist discovers a new crystal structure of an already known chemical compound, they cannot patent the crystal structure alone.
This exclusion is because such discoveries are seen as being obvious to a person skilled in the art. The patent system encourages and protects true innovation, not discoveries of already-known substances.
However, it’s important to note that a new use for a known substance may still be eligible for patent protection. For instance, if the same chemist discovered a new medical use for the known compound with the new crystal structure, they could potentially patent the new use.
This category can be somewhat subjective and depend on the level of innovation. It involved in discovering the new form of the known substance. In some cases, a new form of a known substance may be sufficiently different and non-obvious to be patentable. In such cases, it may be possible to obtain a patent. If the invention meets the other patentability criteria, such as novelty, non-obviousness, and industrial applicability.
Inventions that are methods of agriculture or horticulture
The 4th category of India’s patent exclusions in pertains to inventions that are methods of agriculture or horticulture. Agriculture and horticulture are essential for human survival and the economy of many countries, including India. This exclusion category ensures that these important practices remain accessible to all farmers and are not monopolized by corporations.
One reason for this exclusion is to ensure that farmers are allowed in their ability to cultivate crops and improve their yields. This exclusion allows farmers to experiment with different agricultural techniques. And develop new cultivation methods without fear of infringement by large corporations.
It also prevents companies from patenting certain aspects of agriculture and horticulture. Such as the genes of a particular crop, which could limit the ability of farmers. Its to plant those crops without paying royalties.
Another reason for this exclusion is to promote biodiversity and protect traditional knowledge. Farmers in India and other countries have developed traditional agriculture and horticulture practices over centuries. These practices often involve the use of indigenous crops and techniques that have been optimized for local conditions. Patenting these practices could lead to losing traditional knowledge and reducing crop diversity. Which could have serious implications for food security.
In addition, the exclusion of methods of agriculture and horticulture also protects the interests of small-scale farmers. Those who often lack the resources to obtain patents for their inventions. By excluding these inventions from patentability, small-scale farmers can compete with large corporations. And access the resources they need to sustain their livelihoods.
India’s patent exclusions are in place to ensure that patents are only granted for truly innovative inventions that are not contrary to public policy. While this may limit some inventions from being patented. It ultimately protects the public interest and promotes innovation that benefits society.
If you’re an inventor in India, it’s important to understand these patent exclusions. And how they may impact your ability to obtain patent protection. If you need assistance with the patent process, contact Unimarks, a leading intellectual property law firm in India.