In recent times, innovation has taken centre stage to R&D endeavours contrary to the sole dependence on inventions. This phenomenon acts as an ingenious recycler of dated technologies or products, which, once patent protected, have however lost their applicability as a patent usually lasts for not beyond a twenty year period with usual infringements and territorial disputed claims. This innovative applicability would possibly bring about a huge decrease in cost of ‘invention’ and hence hugely benefit the manufacturers as well as the end customers. However, one quintessential question persists: “Can indeed innovations be patented?”
The World Intellectual Property Organization clearly describes modes of doing business, ideas, methods and strategies as non-patentable (http://tinyurl.com/2neuor) . Incremental or minute changes to existing products to ease applicability are also regarded non-inventive steps and not novel enough, hence non-patentable. A recent hallmark decision by the Supreme Court of India on such Incremental Innovation improved drug, Glivec (Imatinib Mesylate) ruled against the Pharmaceutical major Novartis (http://tinyurl.com/cnyfd6h) have stirred cold waters on the patentability of Incremental Innovations. While the apex court does not comment on latter but minute or trivial changes to existing products would find it hard getting patent protection in one of the world’s largest consumer markets, the exponential trickle down affecting other developing countries of Asia and Africa as well. Hence, the implications of protecting innovations; disruptive, frugal, incremental or sustaining, becomes extremely imperative as it will decide the business strategy in the years to come.
Thankfully, we live in a world where people spend enough time defining problems in context to the diverse domain of innovation before attempting to solve them. A wonderful attempt to promote such innovation protection is The Utility Model (http://tinyurl.com/bm5d9kv) , which might amount to a novel product but something not so inventive in approach, borrowing from existing developments, merely to innovate a solution which traditional inventions could not possibly address. This form of product or process development would in turn promote inventiveness among individuals notwithstanding the enormous business potential that this innovation can attempt to solve.
The omnibus explanation of innovation to the scientific community explains a process in between business strategy and scientific research. Obviously, this fails to fall within the purview of patentability norms. A wonderful attempt by the Australian Government Patent Office makes the earliest attempts to bridge this gap is worth commendable, wherein a unique Intellectual Property protection method, pitched as Innovation Patent (http://tinyurl.com/cyjdssh) , was launched. Fundamentally similar to the Utility Model, with similar eight year time span protection, quick granting of protection and minimal examination and formal procedures, this form of Innovation protection mechanism will incrementally promote more attempts to innovate and seek solutions.
It is high time the global agencies and territorial Intellectual Property Regimes identify the utility and prowess of innovation and make attempts to acknowledge and commend these efforts. Paraphrasing Clayton Christensen, “For a new-growth business, the non-customers matter more than customers, as innovation is the only strategy that will allow them to become customers,” we should acknowledge for smaller and medium sized business or individuals attempting to define and solve an existing problem, an IP protected innovation model will surely help rewrite the rules of innovation.