Relevance of 20-year Patent Term for Mechanical/Automotive Inventions

The debate on patent term has more or less died down after the TRIPs 20-year mandate, but research on the topic continues at several discrete levels.

This presentation at MIPS Conference, organized by IITB, by Dr. Kalyan Kankanala, attempts to assess the relevance of the 20-year patent term for mechanical/automotive inventions. Starting with an insight into the objective of patent law from the perspective of policy and industry, as well as the three justifications for patent protection, i.e., social, economic and utilitarian, the presentation delves into the role of the patent term from each of these angles.

Leaving some of the audience confused and others grueling, Kalyan moves on to discussing the policy and industry perspectives with respect to core and peripheral inventions. Wantonly, he evades a detailed discussion on the highly subjective division parameters, and moves on to drawing conclusions on the value of long/short terms for each of them. Now that the foundation is set, the presentation looks at some statistics.

Choosing Mechanical/Automotive patent filings from the years of 1993-1995, the presentation shows how many applications have been filed and how many of them have lapsed. In both the areas, the number of lapsed patents is around six percent, making the patent term of twenty years, valuable from the industry perspective. The presentation then looks at the empirical research done by Kalyan as part of his IP Audits for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Machine Tool cluster. The last slide points out that the estimated lifetime of a special purpose machine is 3-5 years, and that for consumable products/machines is 10-12 years. The rest is talk and not on the slides.

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