Government will speed up patent approvals, protect IP

Patents1At the urging of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a government subcommittee is drafting a set of changes to the process of obtaining patents in order to speed up approvals and better protect intellectual property, after it came to light that a huge backlog in patent approvals has built up because of the existing complex requirements.

In February, the Prime Minister said that over 12,000 applications for patents were sitting in the Thai Patent Office waiting for approval, constituting an unusually large backlog. The subcommittee is working on modifying the examination process so that approvals can be sped up and new products could hit marketplaces sooner.

Some of the reasons it takes so much time to get patents approved are related to stringent rules on protecting intellectual property (IP) rights. Any modifications in the examination process would not weaken IP rights, and in fact Thailand is working to strengthen IP protections, government officials said.

In March, the government held a meeting to discuss and debate how to clear the longstanding patent backlog. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was a key participant because so many patents come under its purview. Also attending the meeting were the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP), the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PReMA), the Intellectual Property Association of Thailand (IPAT), Free Trade Area Watch (FTA Watch), and the Thai Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (TPMA).

The subcommittee working on modifying patent examination processes also plays a role in overseeing IP protections. The subcommittee was established to resolve issues related to preventing IP infringement, reduce problems for IP rights holders, increase IP protection in accordance with international standards, and improve Thailand’s image as an IP-friendly country.

A total of 15 government agencies are represented on the subcommittee, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Ministry of Agriculture is expected to have a representative on the subcommittee in the near future.

The broad composition of the subcommittee is necessitated by the crosscutting nature of intellectual property and patents. The work of many government agencies involves or has some connection to IP issues.

Another task of the subcommittee is to conduct a review of the regulations imposed by various government agencies and departments to identify conflicts and resolve them. Occasionally, agencies issue contradicting or conflicting regulations that can bog down patent approvals for some products or inventions.

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