New Delhi: The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) is seeking to significantly reduce delays in clearing intellectual property (IP) applications in India to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

At an event to mark World IP day, organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), DIPP secretary Ramesh Abhishek said the department had set the target of lowering the time taken to clear pending intellectual property rights (IPR) applications from the current five to seven years to 18 months by March 2018 and those of trademarks from 13 months to one month by March 2017.

Abhishek said government used to have only 130 patent examiners, which used to delay the entire process of verifying applications.

“We have appointed 458 new patent examiners and 263 examiners will be appointed on a contract basis. Reduction in patent examination time will happen gradually and we have set monthly, quarterly and yearly targets for it,” he added.

DIPP has hired 100-odd additional examiners for trademarks and the examination time has come down to eight months.

“Now, we have a target to bring down this time to one month by March 2017,” Abhishek said.

The government has also renamed the office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks (CGPDTM) as Controller General of IPR.

To give a boost to start-ups, the government has reduced patent filing fee for them by 80% and has built a panel of 80 lawyers to provide them free legal advice.

The commerce and industry ministry is in the process of bringing out a national IPR policy, which is currently pending with the cabinet, to protect India’s traditional as well as modern intellectual property from challenge by multinational companies.

The move towards a comprehensive IPR policy comes as India faces growing challenges to its IPR regime and developed countries try to put in place an even stronger framework through mega regional trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Under its annual Special 301 report, the US Trade Representative, has constantly kept India under a “priority watch list” while threatening to further downgrade the country for alleged violations of IPR.

India has maintained that its IPR regime is in sync with the trade related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreement of the World Trade Organization and has used flexibilities available within that framework.

The US has been complaining against India’s policy towards compulsory licensing of pharmaceutical products, holding that it may weaken the global patent regime under TRIPS.

In 2012, India’s Controller General of Patents passed an order allowing Hyderabad-based Natco Pharma Ltd to manufacture and market a copy of Bayer AG’s liver and kidney cancer drug Nexavar—the first time an Indian firm was granted a so-called compulsory licence, which permits a generic drug producer to make and sell its version of a patented drug without the consent of the patent holder.

Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman last month denied reports that India had informally assured the US that it would not take recourse to compulsory licensing in the future.