1,583 – These were the number of patent applications filed by innovators and researchers from India with WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2018. This might not like a huge number, especially when compared to China’s 53,345 international patent applications. It is, however, interesting to note that India registered the highest growth rate of 27% amongst all countries in patent filings. Slowly and extremely steadily India and Indian companies are strengthening their patenting game in the international patent filing system. Wipro, for example, filed 2,200 in FY19 and Tata Consultancy Services filed 4,596 patents for the same period.
It is heartening to see this. While I agree that there might be a big chasm to cross when compared to countries such as the US (around 600,000 patents were filed in the US in 2017), it’s heartening to see progress in the Indian context.
But what has prompted IT companies in India to accelerate the IP drive?
For one, Indian companies are anxious to transform the age-old perception of India being an extravagantly staffed sweatshop that does the world’s grunt work. The conscious image being built now is that of an expert solution provider. It is interesting to see that many of the patents filed by Indian companies are in areas of ‘emerging technology’ – AI, Blockchain, IoT, etc. These efforts demonstrate a growing maturity in solution and product designing. It also signals our growing maturity to deliver robust solutions in multiple new technologies in a world of rapid technological developments. I will agree with Ajay Bhaskar, global head-corporate strategy and IP, Wipro when he says “Having patents in emerging tech is definitely a source of competitive advantage especially as we transition to building and using products and platforms on which we compose, design, and implement differentiated customer solutions at scale,”
Innovation and competitive advantage fuel the IP drive
As innovation becomes necessary to build competitive advantage, intellectual property and patents become useful arrows in the quiver. Indian companies have realized that well-defined IP goals help you position yourself as a business leader. A focus on IP also talks to a concentrated effort to identify novel innovations that could lead to substantial business growth.
Creating a differentiation that is hard to ignore
This focus on IP is also because organizations now realize the need to generate revenue from non-linear or the non-headcount related businesses like traditional offshoring and delivery and create new templates for industry segments. This makes greater sense as the push towards competitive differentiation escalates and services companies gravitate towards creating new, high-value and high-volume opportunities to become global players in the real sense. Wipro, for example, is differentiating through IP creation leveraging its service productization network.
Alter entrenched perceptions
The other advantage of creating IP is that it allows you to showcase that you have the capability to deliver specific services faster, better, more capably, and effectively than the competition. With visible IP there’s a direct impact on the perceived value of your organization. It helps you prove your capabilities, something that is hard to do especially when your key differentiator has always been the ability to hire people with specific skill sets.
There are a couple of threads here. First, the IP itself could be in the form of an accelerator to deliver services. For eg., “We can build test automation suites faster since we already have these frameworks built as a part of our IP portfolio.” Secondly, the ability to build that IP is a clear demonstration of your technology ability in that area. This is kind of like making a contribution to the open-source and then pointing to that as a clear sign of your ability in the space.
Showcase a higher level of technical maturity
The IP push also points to a very significant change in the mindset of service organizations. This shows that now organizations are getting increasingly invested in identifying the white spaces that exist in the technology and business environment and are focused on creating breakthrough solutions not just for one customer but for a wider universe. While global firms have for long been keen to access Indian tech talent and have leveraged them to make important IP creations, the IP drive in India shows that we are now transitioning to a higher state of technological maturity and have a greater focus on value creation.
Clearly, having patents and intellectual property, especially in the area of emerging tech, is a clear way to establish a competitive advantage. At the same time, to encourage this wave, we must create an enabling environment within our organizations. It’s important to implement a systematic approach that helps to translate the innovation to logical, workable and implementable outcomes. This environment will give our smart guns the freedom to innovate and create world-beating IP.