Plans to present a patent bill to India's parliament have been delayed by the Mumbai terror attacks, possibly until next year.
The bill seeks to help publicly-funded researchers commercialise their research, and would enable scientists in publicly-funded organisations to keep 30 per cent of the net profit from patented work. Their institute would retain 40 per cent, with the remaining money going into an intellectual property management fund.
The country's science minister, Kapil Sibal, is confident the bill will become law. It is modelled on the 1980 US Bayh-Dole Act — which allowed US universities to patent federally-funded work — and was drafted by the Department of Biotechnology. It was approved by the cabinet on 31 October this year.
Industry and heads of publicly-funded research institutes support the bill in principle, but critics have raised concerns that it has been rushed through without open debate (See Indian patent bill: Let's not be too hasty), and is not publicly available. Most university academics have not yet been able to read the bill, according to Nature magazine.
Some critics are also worried that such a system cannot be replicated in India, where many universities suffer from poor funds and infrastructure that will render administration difficult.
Between 1990 and 2002, universities accounted for just three per cent of patents filed by Indian organisations.
Separately, the Indian government has announced plans to establish an autonomous funding agency to promote basic science and engineering research. The National Science and Engineering Board will control an annual budget of around US$200 million and should be functional in the 2009 financial year.