Thursday, July 7, 2011


The “petty patents” can generate a new cadre of entrepreneurs

At last there seems to be some kind of relief for those home grown innovators who have always been discarded as copy-cats. The very same government whose regulations didn’t allow small-time entrepreneurs to make it big, is now contemplating to pass a bill that would not only recognise their work but would also allow them to own their “innovation”. The government is trying to pass a bill that aims at providing patent to small innovators that previously didn’t come under the ambit of Indian patent laws. Such bill if on the one hand would give a new lease of life to those innovations that are gathering dust behind closed doors, on the other hand would also give birth to a new cadre of innovators and entrepreneurs. It goes without saying that there exists a very huge market for low cost products, but the products never received their due recognition and the market remained largely unorganised. On account of lack of scale, most of these innovations met their natural death. Take for instance, the economies a hybrid electric/kerosene stove can create for a poor family, that has the ability of saving around 70 per cent on fuel costs as it uses a 6V coil to heat kerosene for cooking. A similar benefit can be expected out of a diesel based motorcycle that doubles as a tractor or from a micro-windmillbased mobile charger that uses wind power to charge phones and laptops. Such products not only can save huge money, but are economical to install, replicate and maintain. Not to forget that it can open new business avenues for many.

In order to tap investors, a firm named Honey Bee Network has compiled a database of around 140,000 life-altering products created by farmers and villagers. Products like $1 non-stick frying pan, motorcycle-driven ploughing machine, long-lasting electric bulb, Mansukh Prajapati’s Mitti Cool refrigerator and bicycle based washing machine are all waiting their for their turn.

This bill would also solve one of the key problems– initial and interim capital for investment, as it would encourage and attract many investors in such products. Given the size and the scope of this market, finding an investor won’t be a tough task, many of whom previously used to shy away fearing government’s backlash and exclusion from the market. Moreover, this would bring these products from the confines of local operations to regional and national level, eventually allowing the small unorganised players to reap the benefits of scale.

We are not the first nation to come up with such a bill. Globally, nations like Germany and Austria have this system calling it the "Gebrauchsmuster", while the same model in Japan is popular as Petty Patent. So much so that even countries like Bulgaria, Estonia, Angola, Ghana, Uganda, to name a few, have system in place to protect small innovators. More than 70 developing and under-developed countries have laws called utility model patent/certificates or innovation patent providing their home grown entrepreneurs all the protection they deserve.

All in all, in a nation wherein around 90 per cent of the population is out of all kinds of social security net, where the government has failed to create meaningful and sustainable employment for millions, passing of the bill is the least it can do. And the entrepreneurs would do the rest, like they have done in their respective fields by enterprise building, employment generation and sustainable development for the economy.


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