Prof Govindan Rangarajan, Director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), today launched ProrIISeTM, an indigenous software solution for automating the process of protecting and translating intellectual property (IP).
All knowledge produced in our academic institutions is IP or intellectual property. Since it is a property, although intangible, it has to have a legal owner. In India, the owner of IP generated by employees is usually the employer. Publicly-funded institutions and universities, depending on their policies, give the inventors the freedom to either disseminate this intellectual property in open-source journals or choose to protect it in the form of patents before public disclosure. Such protection is vital if the intellectual property is to be translated to industry for commercialisation and eventual benefit to society. While this might sound counterintuitive, imagine a professor/scientist who has developed a drug for cancer. If it gets published in the open literature, the chances of an industry picking it up for commercialisation are lower than if the drug were protected. This is because from the time the invention is born in academia to the time it gets commercialised, investments have to be made to get any IP market-ready. In the case of the cancer drug, this would be clinical trials, for instance. Industries would be wary of making such investments if they cannot be assured of patent protection to prevent indiscriminate copying.
The Intellectual Property and Technology Licensing office (IPTeL) in IISc and similar offices in other institutes in India perform this job of protection to enable further translation. Such translation is of two types. One, to startups from the institution itself. Two, technology transfer to established industry. It is a very well-known fact that the track record of protection and translation in India is very poor. This is true internationally. An IISc evaluation in 2016 showed that the amount of time spent on administering the patent process, instead of on translation, was a major reason. From the time an IP is disclosed for protection to the time a patent is granted and dies, many, many steps occur over a period of 20-odd years. Monitoring this legal, financial and bureaucratic maze manually leads to a very inefficient system. An inefficient system also leads to loss of rights, as inventors lose interest in patenting. An automated system would address both these hurdles to protecting and translating IP.
The IISc-Prorigo software version 1 automates the legal and bureaucratic part of this process. This was released on Monday after three years of testing. Version 2 will automate the financial part and is set for release in 2021. Version 3 will bring in artificial intelligence approaches to prior art searches required to evaluate a patent. It is set for release in 2022.
This is an indigenous Indian software product. It was developed as IISc realised that the existing software solutions were unaffordable by Indian academia. This software will at first target Indian academia and small law firms, and will eventually go international. It is hoped that by reducing the effort spent on administering IP, time will be released that can be spent on translation to industry. The software archives all exchanges, an essential component, as protected IP has both legal and financial implications. The processes implemented in the software are also expected to automatically serve as methods that academia can use to protect and translate IP. This will also help smaller universities where such processes and resources may not exist to set up and streamline their IP offices.