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February 18, 1999


Indian, MIT professors in duel over patent for fresh air device

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An Indian inventor says a virtual reality device for which he has filed for patents in India two years ago has now been 'stolen' by the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sandeep Jaitka, who already holds international patents for a fresh air device 'Rudraksh' to be used in air-conditioned cars and kitchens, says his invention can create smells and aromas in virtual reality.

''For example, when basmati rice is shown being cooked say in a television advertisement, viewers can enjoy the aroma as well,'' Jaitka said.

But while he waits for his patent application to be processed by the National Research Development Corporation, MIT appears to have stolen a march on Jaitka.

Professor Robert Langer of MIT recently announced that he has perfected a chip which when wired into television circuitry releases appropriate smells that enhance the illusion of reality.

The only good news for Jaitka is that a patent search carried out by the NRDC has failed to show that Professor Langer has any patent against the device.

''I have requested the NRDC to take immediate steps to stop the piracy of my invention. I cannot afford to file patents for this invention abroad or carry out further development,'' he said.

Jaitka's patent is for a device suitable for movie theatres. It uses sensors to trigger off hot air when deserts are shown or cooling effect when there is a mountain scenery or flowery smells for gardens.

Jaitka's patent application says the invention can be modified for use along with televisions in a confined space and would be of particular advantage to advertisers.

After spending thousands of rupees on his fresh air device, Jaitka is presently struggling to find a suitable manufacturer for the contraption which also functions using sensors.

According to Jaitka, the sensors detect poisonous gases such as carbon dioxide or low levels of oxygen and compensates by activating the release of fresh air from a compressed gas cylinder.

The device is specifically meant for use in cars and is indispensible for asthma patients.

Fitted in kitchens, the fresh air device can be a boon to housewives who have been shown to be the worst sufferers of poor quality breathing environment which is caused by cooking fumes.

Among those who have evinced interest in the fresh air device for which Jaitka holds the US as well as the UK patents are Korean car manufacturers who propose to use it as original equipment. But firm contracts have been elusive.

In a patent-related development in Lucknow, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Director General R A Mashelkar has urged the Centre to act seriously on patenting Indian products and boost drug research, as is being done by the western nations on a massive scale.

Addressing the 48th annual day of the Central Drug Research Institute on Wednesday, Dr Mashelkar said India should guard its loins in respect of patenting.

Citing the example of patenting of basmati, he said this country had every right to monopolise its products and no one should dictate terms in this regard.

Echoing similar views, Indian Council of Medical Research Director General N K Ganguly in his address also favoured a strong patent regime for the benefit of the country and the scientist community.

Dr Mashelkar emphasised a level playing field for the Indian research laboratories, saying, ''We ought to pay serious attention to this area if India is to compete effectively with the western countries.''

He said while investments in drug laboratories had gone sky-high, ''our labs are yet to pick up''.

Praising CDRI, Dr Mashelkar said the institute's contribution to fundamental science and health sciences had been prolific.


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