A patent attorney's job was patently unattractive in the past. But the advent of the new global patent regime from January 1, 2005, has changed the picture for good.
So, with patent filings are expected to grow manifold under the new regime, analysts say there would be a pressing need for patent attorneys to cater to the needs of the whole spectrum -- business, educational and research.
The attorneys are required not only for filing the patents but also for litigation purposes. But are there adequate number of patent attorneys at present in the country?
No. In a country of more than one billion, the number of actual patent attorney practitioners does not even cross the 100-mark.
Says Ramesh B Vishwanath, advocate and registered patent and trademarks attorney from Hyderabad, "There may be several registered patent attorneys in the country today but the number of actual patent attorney practitioners is just around 50."
According to the official website on patents, the number of registered patent agents (attorneys) as on May 31, 2004, was 607.
"Till now there were only about 2,000 patents filed by Indian companies and 25,000 by foreign companies in India, on a yearly basis. Within a couple of years, we expect these numbers to grow to 10,000 from India and 1 lakh (Rs 100,000) from abroad," he adds.
"This means that there will be good job opportunities for attorneys with science background as according to the amendment to the Patents Act, filing of patents can only be done by patent attorneys who have graduated in science," Vishwanath adds.
"There are, however, very few colleges in the country that offer specialised courses in patent law. This apart, the colleges that offer such courses also, lag behind in providing practical training to the students," Vishwanath points out. "So there may be shortage of talent, a couple of years down the line," he adds.
Sudhir Ravindran, an IPR attorney based out of Chennai, says, "At present, I believe, there is a dearth of more than 5,000 patent attorneys in the country."
"Science graduates with specialisation in patent law have great potential in this field but there is a dearth of quality training institutions in this field," he adds. This fact was recognised even at the recently held CII-Partnership Summit, Ravindran says.
"There may be less than five universities and colleges in India today that offer courses in intellectual property rights," says V K Unni, faculty, IPR, at Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad.
Nalsar provides a one-year PG diploma course in patent law. He also reiterated on the fact that there is a shortage of patent attorneys in India today.
"There has, however, been an increase in interest in this subject, because this year there are 200 students who have joined this course compared to around 100 last year," Unni adds.
"A large number of students over here are actually those who already work for pharma companies like Dr Reddy's and Aurobindo Pharma," he says.
"The new patent ordinance does give good opportunities to patent attorneys," Jatin Trivedi, Ahmedabad-based IPR advocate says.
"With the opening of the 'mail-box', there will be thousands of applications now open for opposition. This will definitely increase the workload for patent attorneys," he adds.
Trivedi, however, adds, "Various attorney firms and institutions have now started training new candidates who will come into the market within a short time. So the situation is likely to change in a couple of years."
To be a patent attorney, a candidate needs to have a degree in science, technology or engineering stream, plus a degree in law. If the candidate does not have a degree in law, he or she can also write a qualifying exam that is conducted at the patents office in Kolkata or its branch offices in Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi.
The qualifying exam includes two papers of 100 marks each. While Paper I covers Patents Act and Rules, Paper II covers Drafting and Interpretation of the Patent Specifications and other Documents.
Candidates interested in appearing for the exam are required to file an application in plain paper with a fee of Rs 200 to the Patent Office, Kolkata.
Proof of Indian citizenship, age and degree in science, technology or engineering is also required. The qualifying examination is followed by a viva voce examination of 100 marks.