The patents business

The patents business INDIANS still do not have the culture of seeking patents. Over the last 15 years, foreigners have obtained two to three times more patents in India every year than Indians. In 1989-90, Indians held less than one-fifth of all patents in force in India. Of the 1,040 Indian applications filed for patents in 1989-90, 32 per cent and 25 per cent came from Delhi and Maharashtra respectively, which is probably reflective of the large number of scientific and technological personnel in these areas.

In high technology areas like electronics and biotechnology, the patents business is booming in Western countries. According to the principal analyst of Dataquest, a consulting firm in California, licensing fees paid in the semiconductor industry alone were estimated to be about US$ 800 million in 1991 -- up from about US$ 300 million in 1986. The US company, Texas Instruments, made more money (US$ 428 million) collecting royalties on its semiconductor patents during 1990 and 1991 than it did from selling semiconductors. In the five years since 1987, it has received in excess of US$ 1.2 billion in royalty revenues alone.

Fights over patents are also growing. Honeywell, the US controls manufacturer, recently got US$ 127 million in settlement over a patent dispute from the Japanese camera manufacturer, Minolta. Legal disputes over patents trebled from 12 in 1986 to 37 in 1991, according to a joint US-Japanese study.

Texas Instruments has two ongoing legal battles with the Japanese companies, Sanyo and Fujitsu.

(Source: Research and Development Statistics 1990-91 / The Financial Times, London)

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