Increasing criticality of intellectual property (IP) for the Indian telecom sector

Vaibhav Khanna, as the Head of Intellectual Property (IP) at STL, he spearheads the development and imple- mentation of the company's IP strategy and manage- ment. His leadership has resulted in an eightfold increase in STL's patent portfolio to over 700 patents. He has been instrumental in integrating IP into the com- pany's overall business strategy. He has contributed to STL's entry into overseas markets by developing robust IP risk manage- ment practices and deterrent capabilities.

In conversation with Charulatha, correspondent, Silicon- india Magazine. Vaibhav expresses his thoughts on the significance of government-academia-industry partnerships in strengthening domestic innovation within the telecommunications industry.

Creation of a robust intellectual property framework that addresses the unique challenges posed by new technologies such as AI, IoT, and 5G in the telecom sector

In my view, intellectual property (IP) plays a crucial role in motivating telecom companies to invest in research and development. This investment leads to the creation of new and advanced technologies. The promise of exclusive benefits from their innovations encourages companies to explore new areas, resulting in groundbreaking products, services, and solutions.

The government can play a pivotal role in establishing a strong IP framework tailored for emerging technologies within the telecom sector through various strategic measures that commences with declaring the telecom sector as a priority sector.

More specifically, revising IP laws to address unique challenges posed by new technologies is crucial. For example, it is important to clarify the eligibility of patents for innovations in artificial intelligence (AI). Secondly, channeling investments into research and development for new technologies can cultivate a robust domestic intellectual property foundation while stimulating job growth within the technology industry. Imagine the government allocating funds to support a telecom company's R&D efforts to create 6G technology that enables ultra-fast data speeds and seamless connectivity with millions of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. This not only advances the nation's technological capabilities to new heights but also develops a robust domestic IP portfolio, elevating the domestic telecom competitiveness on the global stage and fosters job creation. Thirdly, the provision of tax incentives targeted at companies that channel resources into developing and protecting their intellectual property can profoundly enhance the attractiveness of such endeavors for businesses. Lastly, facilitating international collaboration on IP matters can ensure the global recognition and enforcement of intellectual property rights, thus upholding their integrity on a worldwide scale. For instance, harmonizing patent laws with international norms ensures that patented technologies are treated equally across the globe, while simplifying the process to prevent unauthorized replication and ensuring fair competition.

Channeling investments into research and development for new technologies can cultivate a robust domestic intellectual property foundation while stimulating job growth within the technology industry

Role can government-academia-industry collaborations play in bolstering indigenous innovation in the telecom sector

By creating an environment that encourages collaborations between government, academia, and industry, the government can ignite the development of groundbreaking technologies and a skilled workforce. Resource allocation, intellectual property (IP) management and policy support are key pillars through which the government can significantly impact indigenous innovation in the telecom sector.

Firstly, the government can enable academic institutions with strategic state-of-art resources with cutting-edge laboratories that have applications across industries, thereby incentivizing the industry to engage and force partnerships with academic institutions for the development of industry-centric scientific projects. This will also contribute to the development of a highly skilled and specialized workforce tailored to the sector's evolving needs. Such engagement between academia and industry bridges the skills gap and ensures that the workforce is better equipped to effectively contribute to the sector.

Secondly, the government can establish clear guidelines on IP ownership and commercialisation, while maximizing the economic impact of collaborative projects and balancing the industry’s insecurity relating to ownership of IP. The technology transfer offices within academic institutions can be mandated to become financially self-sufficient by transferring IP to industry partners and promoting the commercialization of technologies.

Finally, collaboration can be stimulated by targeted policy measures to promote innovation and the commercialization of intellectual property. Tax incentives can be provided for research and development expenditures, or reduced corporate tax rates can be applicable to telecom companies participating in collaborative R&D with academic institutions.

Indian patent system measure up against its counterparts in Europe, the US, and China

All patent systems, be it the US, Europe, or China, are nuanced to suit the growth of their domestic industry. The European Patent Office (EPO) is renowned for its meticulous examination process that is known to yield higher patent quality through comprehensive evaluations of novelty, non-obviousness, and industrial applicability. Major European companies were threatened by Standard Essential Patent (SEPs) holder(s) in the last few years, and Europe is clearly rethinking the ways to handle SEPs to protect their domestic companies. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has faced criticism for occasionally granting overly broad or less novel patents, raising concerns about patent quality. However, the introduction of mechanisms like post-grant and inter-party reviews facilitates the challenging of USPTO’s decisions, bolstering overall enforceability and quality. The US has additional forums, such as the International Trade Commission (ITC) and IP laws, that allow global enforcement of US Process patents. The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) has made notable strides, especially in the number of patent filings, beating the US by a good margin. China has been able to negotiate sweet licensing fees with SEP holders for its domestic telecom equipment manufacturing companies, while the Indian domestic telecom equipment manufacturing companies were found at the receiving end of the SEP holders.

"India is a country prone to natural disasters, such as cyclones, floods, and earthquakes"

While the Indian Patent Office (IPO) used to face criticism for patent quality and slow speed. However, the IPO has made massive leaps in the last decade by strengthening the patent examination process through more robust assessments, more trained examiners, and significantly shorter processing time. USPTO, EPO, and IPO are steadily moving towards harmonization of patents through legislative and judicial interventions such as the Alice judgment in the US, rethinking SEPs in Europe, and comprehensive examination process in IPO.

Ensuring Telecom Resilience: Lessons from Global Best Practices for India's Network Infrastructure

India is a country prone to natural disasters, such as cyclones, floods, and earthquakes. These disasters can cause widespread damage to telecom infrastructure, disrupting communication and hampering relief efforts. Considering the critical role of telecom networks in emergencies, including defense scenarios, ensuring their resilience against both natural disasters and national security threats is imperative.

India must establish disaster-resilient telecommunications infrastructure while mandating the use of top-tier domestically manufactured active and passive network components in India. Additionally, the formulation of Indian standards for network planning, deployment, and management is imperative to ensure network quality. The approach of sourcing from top-tier domestic industry not only promotes the local investment in research and manufacturing in the telecom sector but also ensures that the components used in the network are secure and of the highest quality, contributing to the overall reliability of the network. Domestic companies who have end-to-end capabilities from research, design, manufacturing, and deployment, such as STL with 30 years of experience, can play a key role in realizing a dream of a secure and resilient telecom network.

Transnational threats like terrorism and organized crime- domestic telecom sector help?

The domestic telecom sector can assume a critical role in enhancing national security, by strategic application of advanced technologies in collaboration with law enforcement agencies. Cutting-edge technologies with the domestic telecom companies can improve border intrusion detection and perimeter security, provide portable command and control units in disaster or war zones, and so forth, contributing to a secure environment.

Indigenous innovations like Fiber Optic Sensing (FOS) technology, primarily employed for perimeter security, intrusion detection and network monitoring, are creating waves globally. Its remarkable success is attributed to its invisible and cost-effective operations, minimal maintenance requirements, and its ability to operate efficiently on remote power sources with ultra-low power consumption.

FOS technology provides impenetrable security by simultaneously monitoring multiple parameters that swiftly detects unauthorized movements near perimeter fences, track changes in ground vibrations, and pinpoint temperature variations that signal potential breaches. Employing state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms, FOS technology processes and analyzes data, allowing for identification of patterns and anomalies in real time. OFS technology has the potential to create truly intrusion-proof establishments, enhance situational awareness and response capabilities, and prevent breaches. Indigenous companies like STL specializes in development and implementation of FOS technology. In addition, telecom companies can leverage FOS to not only safeguard their own networks but also collaborate with national security agencies to create a surveillance network for threat detection.