Finally, after almost 6 months of RTI applications, appeals and reminders, the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has provided me with a comprehensive, lab-wise, list of all the patents that it has licenced in the last 10 years. The only information not provided was royalty figures but CSIR has promised to disclose even these figures in the not so distant future. The entire reply from CSIR can be accessed over here. (The print was small and hence a little unclear after the scan - I'll try and get a soft copy of the list)
I’m glad to note that, contrary to popular opinion, CSIR has actually been quite successful in licencing of its patents. It was a pleasant surprise to browse through the list of over 454 patent licencing deals. Please note that this does not mean that 454 patents were licensed since the list repeats certain patents, since they were licensed to different parties in different years. For instance, the patent, or rather the patent application, for ‘Virgin Coconut Oil’ has been licensed to multiple parties at different instances. I’ve not yet had the time to scrutinize the entire list but I’m estimating that at least 400 individual patents have been licensed to individual parties. In one of its earlier replies, CSIR had disclosed that it had 1,872 active patents in India. This means that 400 out of 1,872 patents have been licensed i.e. 21.3% of patents are commercialized. [Update: In a press release dated 26th September, 2012 a Minister has stated that CSIR has licensed only 9% of its patents. The press release can be accessed over here] Again, this figure may not be completely accurate since a lot of the patents in the list are at still at the stage of patent applications and at least a few of them are US patents but nevertheless it is an indicator of the impressive potential of CSIR.
The range of technologies licensed by CSIR labs is diverse and covers several areas including pharmaceutical inventions, medical diagnostics, water filtration, food technology, mining and construction technologies, chemical technologies etc. Similarly, the range of commercial entities to which these technologies have been licensed to is equally diverse and includes companies and small business across India to multi-national companies based out of the U.S., Malaysia, Tanzania and Italy.
Some of the licensees include Cadila Pharmaceuticals, Nicholas Piramal, General Electric, Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, DRDO, HAL, Assignee-Signal Stop LLC, USV Ltd., Pepsi, Cocoa-Cola, NMDC. Rajasthan Mines & Minerals Ltd., Tata Chemicals, Ranbaxy, Shreya Life Sciences, Emcure Pharmaceuticals. Apart from these entities, several patents have been licensed to what I presume are smaller companies and in some cases individuals or generic categories such as ‘farmers’.
The information disclosed in response to my RTI application reveals that CSIR does seem to have an active network to licence its patents. It would be interesting to study how CSIR has been marketing its patents so far – do they outsource this work or do they have their own technology transfer offices? The only problem seems to be that there is little co-ordination at the national level since each CSIR lab seems to act in isolation from the larger CSIR network. This is precisely the idea behind CSIR-Tech Ltd. which company would act as a single stop selling point for all CSIR patents but as we’ve discussed earlier on this blog, the idea of CSIR-Tech appears to have been wasted by the top leadership at CSIR.
Another point that needs to be relooked is whether CSIR should continue to aggressively continue with it foreign patenting strategy. In the list provided by CSIR it appears that only a handful of its US patents are being licensed. Of course, if CSIR was to tie-up with ‘invention capital’ companies like Intellectual Ventures in order to exploit its patents in the developed markets of the U.S. and the E.U. it may improve its track record with its foreign patents. CSIR clearly has great potential, provided its top leadership can get its act together.