Innovation, Growth and Intellectual Property: A Study of the Indian Telecom Sector and the Way Forward

AuthorPunkhuri Chawla,Sheetal Chopra
Date01 July 2018
Published date01 July 2018
DOI10.1177/2277401718787953
Subject MatterArticles
Article
Innovation, Growth
and Intellectual Property:
A Study of the Indian
Telecom Sector
and the Way Forward
Sheetal Chopra1
Punkhuri Chawla2,3
Abstract
The article is an evaluation of the growth of the Indian telecom sector in
light of its innovative capabilities and production of intellectual property.
The low patent footprint and investment in research and development of the
Indian telecom sector shows a lack of focus on innovation and intellectual
property creation by the domestic telecom industry, and it is argued that
this prevents the sector to tap into its full potential. The economic growth of the
telecom sector must be seen holistically, meaning that domestic Indian telecom
companies must be internationally competitive and occupy a higher place in
the telecommunications value chain. This article argues that regulatory focus
needs to shift towards encouraging and protecting intellectual property in
India, so as to incentivize investment in expansion of technological capabilities
through R&D.
Keywords
Innovation, India, Telecom, Patents, R&D
Introduction
This article is a study of the impressive growth that the Indian telecom sector
has experienced in the last decade. However, the current manner of growth,
without a focus on innovation and intellectual property creation by the domestic
Journal of National
Law University Delhi
5(1) 40–60
2018 National Law
University Delhi
SAGE Publications
sagepub.in/home.nav
DOI: 10.1177/2277401718787953
http://journals.sagepub.com/home/jnl
1
India Lead for IPR Policy, Ericsson, India.
2
Research analyst, Jindal Initiative on Research in IP and Competition Law (JIRICO), O. P. Jindal
Global University.
3
Ella Cheong (IPR and Technology Law) LLM scholar, National University of Singapore.
Corresponding author:
Sheetal Chopra, India Lead for IPR Policy, Ericsson, India.
E-mail: sheetal.chopra@ericsson.com
Chopra and Chawla 41
telecom industry does not reflect the growth potential that the sector actually has.
Indeed, economic growth of the telecom sector should be seen within the
international context. To make domestic Indian telecom companies a success
internationally, regulatory changes must shift toward protection of intellectual
property in India.
While the growth that the Indian telecom sector has made in the last decade
is undeniable, evaluating its health on broader criteria is important. The domestic
handset manufacturing has made a transformative headway with its net worth
growing exponentially in the last few years. As any economy grows, its focus
gradually shifts towards export-oriented growth from mere import substitution
in the domestic market. However, this shift is not possible without higher
innovative capabilities of domestic players to ensure that their products are
internationally competitive. Even without a focus on export-oriented growth,
for domestic companies to remain viable competitors as against imported
products in the domestic market, it is important that they maintain a sustainable
competitive advantage.
A growth strategy that focuses on strengthening the innovative capabilities of
domestic firms and businesses, with the help of a strong intellectual property
regime can go a long way in ensuring sustainable competitive advantage to
domestic firms. Alikhan has described the intellectual property system as ‘one of
the cornerstones of modern economic policy at the national level and a catalyst
for development’ and highlights the importance of seeing intellectual property
regulations as a part of a developing nation’s socio-economic development,
and not simply its technological growth.1 Nowadays, innovations in fields like
nanotechnology, communication and information sciences have not only created
new industries but also new ways of doing business. If anything, continuous
innovation is the foundation of corporate and national success across the world
today and is indispensable for the creation of the edge, both in domestic as well as
international markets.
The dissonance in a holistic understanding of growth, which concerns itself
with parameters of innovative capabilities, and the growth of the Indian telecom
sector is discussed in this article through empirical evidence from the Indian
handset and telecom equipment industry. The first part of this article describes
the growth of the Indian telecom sector through data on increasing revenue
and the performance of the most prominent domestic companies in the sector.
The second part of the article delves into an understanding of the indispensable
role played by innovation and intellectual property in economic growth. The third
part of the article provides empirical evidence on the patent footprint and
research and development investments of Indian handset and equipment manu-
facturing companies, in an effort to evaluate the sector’s innovative capabilities.
On the whole, this article seeks to shed light on the appropriate way forward
for the telecom industry in India, so that lack of focus on innovation can be
1 Alikhan Shahid, ‘The Socio-Economic Benefits of Intellectual Property Protection in Developing
Countries’(WIPO, 2000)
accessed May 13, 2018.

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