Intellectual Property Rights : A smarter way to reform education sector

Universities and public research institutions are among the direct contributors towards innovation and research, particularly in emerging economies. The potential pool of talent for innovation in these economies also emanates largely from educational institutions and research institutions. Off late, the significance of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in higher education has been widely recognised. This could be credited to the National IPR Policy approved by the Union Cabinet in May 2016, which was the first ever IPR policy framed by the Government of India.

The primary focus of this Policy is towards promoting innovation and creativity, especially amongst entrepreneurs and in higher education institutions. The Policy brief specifically mentions synergising all forms of IPR, concerned statutes and agencies for tapping the creativity and innovative energies in India with a special emphasis on start-ups and educational institutions.

The University Grants Commission (UGC), the nodal authority for determining and maintaining of standards of university education in India, issued a letter for inclusion of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) as a generic elective subject under the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS).

In addition, the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), a ranking system adopted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), ranks institutions of higher education in India. These rankings act as mechanism for the institutions to include promoting innovation, research and development while assessing their performance beyond academics. One of the parameters considered while ranking and which is significant to our discussion is Research and Professional Practice that includes IPR and patents - both published and granted, by students and faculty members which has a weightage of about 15 marks. Publications and patent applications have been found to be highest from engineering and technology institutes. The ranking of top educational institutions was found to be proportional to the number of applications filed for patents. There has been significant increase in the applications filed for patents and also research publications compared to previous two years since the first announcement of this ranking system in 2016.

But the awareness of Intellectual Property Rights is limited to higher education institutions. IP awareness should be made a part of the curriculum in schooling. This will ensure that an effort at ingraining IP awareness in the education systems begins at an early stage.

Regrettably there are numerous key segments which have minimal awareness about the benefits they can accrue by protecting their rights. A recent study conducted by Einfolge, a Global leader in Patent & IPR and market research solutions, reveals that segments such as Design Patents, Geographical Indication (GI) and Trade Secrets need more attention to get the benefits of IP rights.

In 2018 Einfolge conducted a conceptual study on ‘Intellectual Property: Rights, Need and Awareness’ and it reveals that majority of respondents (Students, Scholars, Teachers and Managers), coming from 203 educational institutions from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana were not fully aware about the benefits of IP and other related issues. The respondents had minimal awareness about monetary benefits of acquiring an IP right, commercialisation of acquired IP rights, the legal troubles that one might land after using a pirated product.

It was disappointing to note that nearly 35% respondents were still not aware about the IPRs though they belong to an intellectual class. Hence, the lack of awareness raises an alarm. Among the group which was relatively more aware were mostly the ones who just think as part of their course. Real understanding of IP and its value was 5% only.

The responses also pointed out that most people are not aware of the existence of an IP department in their college and more than 70% people in institutes have no thoughts of registering an IP, this shows that they have minimal awareness of the benefits that they would gain from IP.

The Study recommends that to fulfil the need of spreading awareness about IPRs, the budding professionals/entrepreneurs and other stakeholders need more information, orientation and facilities for protecting their intellectual powers.

Einfolge conducted the survey both online and offline among students and technical staffs to know how knowledgeable they are on Intellectual Property Rights.

From the responses, it’s good to know that Intellectual Property Rights has been made as a part of the curriculum. Even though the knowledge on IPRs is spreading through awareness programs and curriculums, we can identify few areas which need attention to spread awareness on key areas such as Design Patents, Geographical Indication and Trade Secrets.