Research rights

THE board of governors of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi has cleared a policy on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), anticipating a steep increase in the scale of industry-sponsored and collaborative research.

The absence of such a policy had resulted in marked disenchantment among researchers and faculty. The most serious issue that the policy seeks to redress is the right of researchers to results and products from their own research work, and in the share of revenue subsequently generated through commercial transactions or royalty.

Also, the policy provides a mechanism to safeguard information obtained by IIT staff while working on industry-sponsored projects by restraining the publication of crucial results or formulae.

The policy, cleared on December 10 last year, is applicable to the information, data and knowledge generated from research conducted within the institute as well as projects carried out in collaboration with industry. Says A B Bhattacharyya, dean (Industrial Research and Development), IIT Delhi, "Although universities in the industrialised countries have reasonably streamlined IPR policies, the academic community in India has remained blissfully ignorant about it. The time has come for the IITs to clearly enunciate the rules and procedures affecting intellectual property. The policy will also restore the confidence of the research community and accrue better credits to them."

Bhattacharyya, who spearheaded the effort to draft the policy over the past two-and-a-half years at IIT Delhi, adds, "The IITs throughout India will adopt this policy with suitable modifications."

The IITs are already doing projects in collaboration with industry. IIT Madras has earned this year Rs 4 crore from consultancies and collaborative projects with public sector enterprises, and IIT Delhi's income was about Rs 1 crore, says Bhattacharyya.

But the industry, particularly in the private sector, has been concerned that sponsored R&D projects in the IITs are liable to be pirated or end up in the hands of their competitors. Says S K Bijlani of the Confederation of Indian Industry, "There is a weak IPR regime within India. The CII is evolving guidelines for industry. It is necessary for the IITs to work out a system which could further strengthen industry's confidence in these apex research institutions."

While welcoming the policy, Surinder Kapur, chairperson of the CII's industrial relation committee, says, "We have to see how the system will be operationalised."