Greetings on World IP Day.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) was created more than 50 years ago as one of the 16 agencies of the United Nations for promoting the protection of Intellectual Property. Its predecessor was the BIRPI which was established in 1893 to promote the creative industry. The WIPO decided to celebrate 26th April every year as the World IP Day. The day is usually marked with various events being held by IP owners, IP lawyers and other organisations across the world. The theme for this Day changes every year depending on the dynamic nature of IP and the importance to be given to a particular area in IP. For eg., in 2012, the theme was `Visionary Innovators'; in 2018 `Women in innovation and creativity' and in 2019 it was `IP and sports.'
The theme for 2020 is `Innovate for a Green Future'. When the theme was announced this year, WIPO may not have predicted that the Corona virus would have had such a deleterious effect that, for the first time, not even one event would be held on World IP Day, except may be a few webinars.
This year's theme, when announced late last year or early this year, was almost predictive of the looming environmental concerns for the Earth. While taking a toll on human-kind both in terms of fatalities/illnesses and economically, COVID-19 has shown us how even a temporary lockdown of a few days can benefit the environment.
Clearer skies, cleaner water, shining stars, chirping birds, safer animals in their habitat, lesser fuel consumption are traits of the Earth which most of us have not experienced for several years. This could be nature's way of sending us a stronger message.
Once the lock-downs are lifted and the world comes back on its feet, the focus of most countries would be different. Some countries would go back to fixing their economies and providing food and livelihood. Some countries would also in addition look towards creating `self-sufficiency' in critical areas such as medical equipment, API manufacturing, bio-technology innovations, testing kits etc., There would be emphasis on health, healthcare systems and environmental education.
While focussing on all these areas, significant stress needs to be laid on the development of eco-friendly processes and products. Incentives ought to be provided for environmentally friendly innovations to be patented. Product designs should factor in their ecological impact. Packagings have to be from recyclable material. Energy and water production and conservation have to be environment friendly. Geographical Indications should be used to make natural resources more sustainable rather than simply for commercialisation. Plant varieties ought to be developed which are healthier for consumers. The use of pesticides, insecticides and other techniques for increasing yield ought to give way to varieties which restore the ecological balance.
India's National IPR Policy of 2016 specifically declared India's commitment to –
"Provide special incentives for creation of IPRs in green technologies and manufacture of energy-efficient equipment"
Estimates suggest that about 13-15% of patents filed in India relate to green technologies – which is quite an optimistic figure. This percentage ought to increase. The majority of green technologies are owned by a few countries. While being a knowledge economy India's aspiration should be for a `green economy'.
The outbreak of the virus has shown that economic development without due care for the environment is not sustainable. On this occasion the corona virus has brought us to a halt. Next time it could be unbreathable air, floods, earthquakes etc., caused due to damage to the environment. The future is however not bleak. Research is in progress in all these fields and solutions will be found.
However, the COVID-19 outbreak has shown that the `Default' mode which all of us were used to, i.e., being social is no longer to be taken for granted. Aristotle's theory `Man is by nature a social animal' now has a caveat `Man is a social animal – if Nature permits'. The Earth is fragile, let us nurture it by `Innovating for a green future'.
Justice Pratibha M Singh-Judge- Delhi High Court- is a Well Known Expert in IP Law,