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India's largest publicly funded scientific agency was granted more US patents between 2002 and 2006 than its counterparts in France, Japan and Germany combined, but critics say this has largely been a waste of money.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been patenting new findings regardless of whether or not it plans to commercialise its them, says its chief of patents.

Filing each US patent costs the agency US$25,000, and then a further US$4,000 per year in maintenance.

Responding to critics, the CSIR's director Raghunath Mashelkar says this is not a waste of resources. He says it is too early to expect financial returns on the investments, pointing out that only about three per cent of US patents are ever licensed.

The former director of the CSIR Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, A.V. Rama Rao, says the agency should set up an independent division to identify research findings worth patenting.

Raghunath Mashelkar is a trustee of SciDev.Net.

Link to full article in Nature