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'In the last four years, we have more than doubled the number of patents filed from India': Aloknath De

'In the last four years, we have more than doubled the number of patents filed from India': Aloknath De
22 Nov, 2021

India may be perceived as the backend hub for global technology companies but the number of inventions taking place in the country has been steadily rising in recent years, signalling an emphasis on intellectual property (IP) in innovation. In an interview, Aloknath De, the chief technology officer (CTO) of Samsung Research Institute in Bengaluru talks about why filing patents is important for a country like India, and how patent filing is powering technologies we use today, and those that are being conceived in labs. Edited excerpts:

Given that many still perceive India as the backend hub of global technology companies, are many patents being filed from here?

We (Samsung Research Institute) are now in our 26th year. The first 15 or so years were more about development of software, etc. But if you look at the last 10 years, we have filed 7500 patents globally from here. Of these, 3500 patents were filed in India. In 2017, we used to do approximately 450 patents per year, but in 2021 we have achieved 1000 patents already, filed in different places or to be filed soon. So, in the last four years, we have more than doubled the number of patents being filed from India. Such data should show you how we’re accelerating more patents.

But does this help grow India’s patent portfolio?

Yes, it is growing. Because almost every patent we file in some other country, we first file in India. About two-thirds of these are going to other countries after that. Any data of Indian patent filing will show that 300-350 patents are filed per year.

What is the significance of filing a patent in a particular country?

Patents can emanate from any R&D center, whereas its applicability is based on the market. If I don’t file a patent in India and that product is being sold here, the company may have a weaker ground to claim that this is our patent. Therefore, any product that we are making, depending on which kind of patent it is and where it has most applicability, that market is the first to be covered. So, the initiation is in the R&D center, applicability in the market, and you should protect the patent in every market where the product will proliferate.

How do companies like Samsung, Motorola etc., which have patents on foundational technologies, protect their IP?

It is country specific, but these days Asian countries are following a particular pattern, Europe has broader coverage, etc. Ideally though, people would like to do that (protect their patent in each market). And as you said, if you look into Samsung, we’re definitely in the top two in the US patent filings. Korea gets a big number too, being our headquarters, and even in India there is our contribution to global -- we have also been recognized for the highest number of patents being filed, grants, etc.

In the context of India, are the patents focused on current technologies or are you looking at future tech as well?

Our centre of excellence has been able to build around advanced communications. We started building around 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G, and not just the terminal side but also the network side. For instance, Reliance Jio’s network was kind of from Samsung. So, around advanced communications applicable to India as well as global products. We are looking forward to the 6G kind of future as well (6G is the sixth-generation of wireless networks, which is expected to increase capabilities in latency, bandwidths and more). But patents could also come from specific problems in a field, like if call drops are happening in the existing system and you can find a way to improve that then why not? Or it could be on core technologies that will come in future products beyond 5G and 6G.

We also look into artificial intelligence (AI) and its applicability in voice, vision, data intelligence and more. This is a central part and a lot of young people and millennials are quite excited in doing this. For example, AI in image processing. We did a single take (mode), which allows people to take a photo (using a phone) and delete some parts of the photo that aren’t required. The third dimension is the Internet of Things (IoT), where we have 200 million connected devices all over the world.

Since millennials are excited about emerging tech, is the number of patents in this space increasing as compared to more traditional tech?

I think we are able to do all areas, because advanced communication is also growing and it is changing in ways — from terrestrial communication to mission critical communications, voice, video and image, etc. Then IoT is coming up from home to cities etc., so I think each one is growing at its own pace and the opportunities might be different. Sometimes a freshman might be able to conceptualize a patent (because the technology is very new) and sometimes you may need a bit of base knowledge to do a patent filing.

How many patents filed actually get deployed in mainstream tech?

Some of the patents will take a longer time, because in technologies like blockchain, things are coming up now but people had to start filing patents ahead of time. That part is not in our control. But in the other sets, where we are building our products today or tomorrow, we have grown by about four times in the last three years. Today, 25% of our patents are going into products.

Do you see a general growth in innovations and inventions coming from India?

There is an innovation index by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) where we have grown by 35 spots between 2015-16 and today (from 81 to 46). The patent growth and IP publications are no doubt growing. In AI, patents are in the top three at a country level, at least in the applied level.

How is academia performing? Are they also innovating more?

Yes. I think this was not a culture earlier, when it was just publications. But as the industry-university interactions are growing, and the country is also looking into this, they’re also filing certain patents. Startups have also started filing, at least the core patents. I handle the Samsung Ventures strategic investment in India, and I think everyone is looking into whether you have intellectual property which makes entry barriers (for others). As more work happens between industry and universities, I think these numbers will shoot up from the academic side or as co-inventions.