In the recent past, quite a few practitioners who I've had the opportunity to interact with, have mentioned on more than one occasion that the Indian patent office is not particularly responsive to RTI applications. Considering the transparency overdrive that the intellectual property office has been in the past few years, this is indeed a surprising feedback.
I, for one, would have thought that prompt responses to RTI applications would have been one of the first points of emphasis in an effort to bring in transparency to the Indian intellectual property establishment. It appears that the promptness of responses to RTI applications is not uniform across all offices. It also appears that there is no consensus among the four patent offices as to what can legitimately form the subject matter of an RTI application.
It would probably help to issue guidelines in order to avoid a flood of frivolous applications and to promptly respond to permissible applications. A few questions arise in this regard – can RTI applications act as substitutes to inspection of files at the office? How does section 153 of the Patents Act interplay with the scope of subject matter that can be sought in an RTI application?
Also, is it permissible to seek information in an RTI application with respect to the contents of published documents which are available for inspection by members of the public? It is my humble opinion that practical issues like these must be addressed by the patent office on a regular basis since that would help applicants and practitioners save time by understanding the options available to them.
So far, there has been very little analysis of the manner and uniformity of responses to RTI applications by the Indian patent office. An empirical study, however brief, would help throw light on the effectiveness of RTI applications as a means of obtaining information from the patent office. In the meantime, we request our readers to share with us their experience in filing RTI applications at the patent office and their suggestions for improving the prevalent situation.