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This article has been written by Saurabh Bansal, pursuing a Certificate Course in Intellectual Property Law and Prosecution from LawSikho.

An Introduction: Importance of Securing the Data

As we know, the last few decades after the late 80’s in the 20th century belonged to computers and now after so many years, the exponential growth of computer technology has led to the digital age where each and every system is globally being transferred on to the digital platform for increased and enhanced functionality and improved security. In today’s growing world, data had become the most important resource of any organization, with the advent, nourishment and flourishing of globalization and commercialization, the most priceless and precious substance with global multinational companies is not even the metal gold, it is the DATA. 

The companies are collecting data and working heavily on it to know their customer behaviour and hence work on their marketing strategies. Similarly, the same data had become very much important for winning political elections and checking the mood of citizens and then converting the same public opinions in any one political party’s favor only by working on this very data. Even, how much black money is stashed outside your own territorial jurisdiction is hidden deep inside the computer code and algorithms, and hence it becomes very much important for governments worldwide to safeguard and protect this data. 

High stake technologies involved

Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain technologies have furthered the scope of securing the data, at the same instant, it becomes necessary for all governments to invest in these technologies and safeguard the data from any loopholes present in these latest technologies. And just to enhance the data security levels, several staff are working day and night on preventing any kind of untoward incident that can harm the data safety.

So, as we now understand the safety aspects and importance of data as a treasure, how much it is recommended to transfer all the working of the governments on digital platforms, when we know the future lies only in digital transactions, even from last few years, the hard cash and even the plastic money is being planned to be replaced by cryptocurrencies mined through blockchain technologies. Not only Indian governments, many governments globally have started the transformation of the regular working style of governments onto digital platforms. 

So whole data which was previously being procured on paper documents and files is being transferred onto hard disks, floppy drives, pen drives and now on to cloud platforms. And with the advent of cloud computing, it becomes very much important to create an infrastructure and security blanket to protect the data on cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services, and other similar web-based cloud technologies. 

Recent tussles

The current turmoil between the governments and the social platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc, with respect to the privacy of the state subjects is a war on similar lines, where there is a severe threat to national integrity and sovereignty by these mega social platforms and it is the prerogative of individual Governments on how to create a balance between the freedom of speech and expression and safety of national interest. Recently, the Australian Government had objected on the free usage of news by these mega-platforms to provide uninterrupted valuable content on these platforms but on the behest of hard work done by news agencies, the government is working out to commercialize the usage of this protected news content on these social platforms, that they are using for reaping huge monetary benefits.

Prime concern

So, what will be the impact of these E-Governance policies on the protection of Intellectual Property Rights, where everything is on the cloud, even the government had created the E-marketplace in competition to China’s Alibaba, called as GeM, Government’s E Marketplace. Even big tenders are being floated through e tendering processes. So do we have the system in place to save the data, copyrights, trademarks, patents, designs and other intellectual property rights, in this age of digital transformation, is the prime multifaceted question, where the balance is required between the digital transformation and IPR Protection?

Recent, upcoming trends and challenges

Now, we should understand the period when the actual realization and usage came up into Indian Government offices and working culture. The concept of e-government started of in 1990s and e-governance refers to the usage of Information and Communication Technologies for providing the easier access to all kind of government services, though we were a bit late in becoming tech savy, still we covered a long distance and still lot is to be covered, be it the advent of 5G technologies even when few countries in world are already talking about 7G systems. 

As per Information technology reports India, is lagging far behind in e governance platforms development and lies at meagre scale of 3.8 on the scale of 10, also the major challenges before government to implement the e-governance strategies are, the threat to the individual’s privacy and the huge gap between those who can afford these tech platforms and those who can not, like in today’s covid times, the access to online classes among the socially less developed classes is meagre 13.8% and this very gap fails the motive of social welfare which is the prime motive for e-governance platforms. 

Even the prominent AADHAR card and the UIDAI projected headed by Infosys’s Nandan Nilekani, had to go through the fire pit of the privacy laws of India, the Justice K.S.Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union Of India on 26 September, 2018 SC, judgment delivered by Honble’ A Sikri, Justice had been a perfect example of tussle between the citizen’s right to privacy and the encroachment by e-governance policies. In this case, the Supreme Court of India guaranteed the fundamental right of Privacy to all the citizens and affirmed that it forms the latent part of Article 21 of Indian Constitution. 

National and international instances

E-governance is certainly increasing its footsteps in India, recently the government has ordered access to voter ID cards through an online platform, which can be downloaded just like the tax document PAN Card and the UIDAI Aadhar Card. Recently, a Chinese MNC named HUWAEI has been barred by the USA from taking up projects in the US telecom industry due to the threat of data leak and piracy of US copyrighted material which can be a threat to national security. In the same instance, Indian government also took similar actions against the chinese MNC. 

Going digital: Can it be avoided?

Though, it can be a valid point that going more and more digital, may raise data security concerns but at the same time, development into the digital domain can not be ignored, because digital is the future. The strategic objective of e-governance is to support and simplify governance for all parties – government, citizens and businesses. The use of ICTs can connect all three parties and support processes and activities. In other words, in e-governance uses electronic means to support and stimulate good governance. 

Now, being entering the digital domain, the government has to create IT infrastructure not only for government to government interactions, it needs to cover all the areas like the government to business, government to citizens and government to employees interactions and India is surely serious about going digital on all the fronts at the same time. Also, the statutes protecting intellectual property rights, like Information Technology Act 2000, Copyright Act of 1957, Indian Patents Act 1970, are in sync with global guidelines for IPR protections governed by WIPO, TRIPS Agreement to which India is a party and signatory.

Recent steps taken

Even the current Indian government understands the challenges that can really harm the Indian IP Rights to a great extent. That is why, the current Modi government started up with rolling out a national policy for IPR and in furtherance of the safeguards a cell for Intellectual Property Assets management is created. Further, in order to prove that intellectual property rights are on the government’s radar, it started to clear the patent grants and trademarks backlog in full swing and further recruiting a good deal of examiners who can clear up this clog in the system and hence the number of patents and trademarks granting has been increased.

In order to encourage the startups, the government is working hard to appoint appropriate staff who can guide and work out with the IP safeguard requirements of the start ups. It is further to be noted, that the Multinational corporations are still not entrusting the Indian system of granting IP protections and hence are pressing hard to ensure the safety of their IP rights.

International image makeover

Also, it is a matter of deep concern, the office of  United States Trade Representatives (USTR) have placed India along with few other nations, on priority watch list as far as the IP protections are concerned. The report further appreciated India’s efforts to cover up the loopholes in IP protection systems and also making the process easier and timely disposal of patent and trademark applications. Even the government has further come up with another draft for improvising the patent rules and laws by bringing in the new draft for the Indian Patents Act in January 2021. All these activities are further concerned with improving the ease of doing business ranking and coming up with one window clearance system.

Conclusion

To sum up the above discussion, it is the prerogative of all the governments and people in power in India, to safeguard the public interest and at the same time maintain a global perspective towards IP Rights protection, in the age of global digitization. Since digitization is the future, it is important to work in the direction of improvement of rules and laws that can work in sync with global laws and also provide protection to national interests, when there is heavy international pressure to improve ease of doing business, the world is watching us. To some extent, India had agreed with the global pressures when it allowed patents to pharmaceutical industries, which is proving to be a boon at current times of pandemic and many foreign companies are producing the vaccination in consonance and collaboration with Indian pharma companies. E-governance is for the good of the public, it should not be allowed to become a tool for breach of privacy of Indian citizens and should work in harmony with the rights created by other substantive and procedural laws.

Sources

  1. E-governance Portal https://www.meity.gov.in/divisions/national-e-governance-plan (Times of India Current Affairs)

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