We recently caught up with Ankush Bedi, who is a partner and co-founder of the India based firm Invent IP Legal Services LLP.
RH: Can you give us some background on Invent IP?
AB: Sure, we celebrated our sixth foundation day on December 14. Presently, we are around 35 people, a mix of engineers and attorneys. We pretty much handle the whole gamut of IP services across various technology areas. We handle filing and prosecution, and patent analytics, such as landscapes, patentability, validity/invalidity, competitive intelligence, portfolio analysis, and technology scouting. With each passing year, we strive towards excellence with a strong focus on consistently delivering outstanding service to our clients.
RH: Are there any particular trends in India we should be aware of?
AB: I think there has been a change in a couple of areas. The first being that the number of patent applications filed in India has increased. Over the last 4 years there has been a huge increase (by almost 40%) in the number of applications filed in India. Moreso, domestic applicants have increased patent filings, indicating that companies/institutions are trying to create big patent portfolios. However, lot of times to attain high numbers, the quality of applications thus churned out are not even worth the paper they are printed on. If a large patent portfolio is unenforceable, what’s the use of wasting all that money?
RH: I suspect you take a different approach?
AB: Absolutely. Our focus is on quality.
RH: Which begs the question how do ensure that you draft quality applications?
AB: It’s a combination of things. Invent IP’s founding partners including me were trained by US and EP attorneys. We apply that rigorous training across our organisation too. We only hire people with very strong technical backgrounds. We have the view that the drafting of a quality patent application would require two aspects: realistically broad claims, and enough matter in the specification so that during the prosecution there is some matter that one can fall back upon if an examiner is able to find a prior-art that one was not able to find during drafting/pre-filing stage.
Claims as is well known is the hardest part. I believe that teaching drafting of good, no great claims, is like trying to teach somebody to paint, it’s akin to magic. Our experience tells us that some can be taught, and some just cannot.
We have also developed a rigorous methodology for drawing out from the inventors, the horse’s mouth if you will, what the invention is. We do a lot of persistent cross-questioning. After that the first step is to identify the core novelty that the claims should be focused on. At the end of the conversation with the inventors, I will ask them to summarise the invention in a couple of lines, including the novelty.
By doing this, the inventors give you a good road map to a very broad claim, and that is my starting point, terminus a quo.
Also, we look at different perspectives from the commercial angle. We look at the different use case scenarios for the invention and how the invention will be sold as a product/service, and into what markets. I think a lot of attorneys overlook this critical aspect. This insinuates that we take a broad perspective, so that we seek to obtain the broadest and comprehensive coverage for our clients.
RH: One of the issues for applicants is that it can take a long time to judge the quality of the application as prosecution can take so long from filing the application to when it grants, hopefully with a scope similar to that which was originally claimed. This means that it often takes some time before your clients appreciate your approach, the value you provide. Have you experienced this, and if so, how do you get to the point where clients really appreciate your approach?
AB: I think you have hit the bull’s eye with this question. It is very difficult to convince the clients. Some say, why are you charging x amount, when other firms charge x minus y amount. However, we have a certain competitive differentiation over other firms.
We have statistics that show that we have fast grants in the US, one in ~45 days using track one examination, another in 10 months not using track-one. We also emphasise the high percentage we have of first action allowances. But it still takes a while to convince and acquire new clients.
RH: Are there any recent developments in Indian patent law you want to flag?
AB: I think there is a big misconception that India does not grant software patents, and I would like to address that. India does grant software patents. You just need the right law firm to handle your case. There were some revised guidelines introduced in 2017 for examining computer related inventions. Previously there was heavy emphasis of introducing a hardware element in the claims. Without that, the patent would not be granted, even if it was found to be novel and inventive. In very broad terms the law now allows that if you can make an argument that there is a technical effect or technical contribution of the invention, then you may get a grant. Thus, to obtain a software patent in India, it is of utmost importance that the patent application should indicate the features, which demonstrate technical advancement and technical effect in the claims. Additionally, such claims should be enabled adequately in the specification of the software patent application. Such a practice would significantly increase the chances of securing a patent grant for a software invention.
We have got a lot of software patent grants. There is currently a huge focus on AI with ChatGPT, etc. The innovation in this field is enormous. Lots of our clients are filing applications in the field of AI and we have been getting grants there. For start-ups in India, the Indian government have a provision of an accelerated examination so the final decision for the grant or rejection of the application typically comes within an year of filing the application.
I would specifically like to mention four software grants, two within seven months and the other two in around 11 months. All these grants were for patents involving AI based inventions.
With India being the 5th largest economy in the world, we would expect to see more MNCs, especially, software companies, filing in India.