In today's Finshots brief, we will discuss
- Compulsory Licenses
- Why visual effects professionals are leaving Hollywood for big tech and
- Flipkart's latest gaming gambit
The Compulsory License Quandary
Being an inventor is not easy. Finding a new way of doing something, or unearthing a unique solution to a pressing problem usually involves years of hard work, countless hours of research, and huge costs. And the only way to remunerate innovators is to protect their investment through a patent. That is, by restricting others from using the product or technology for a defined period of time.
However, patent protection also has a flipside. What if the patent holder uses their exclusive rights over the product to establish a monopoly? What if they demand a preposterous amount of money for selling it? Hell, what if there’s a national emergency (like the pandemic) and the patent holders are the only ones who can manufacture products that can help?
Well, that’s where compulsory licenses come in. Compulsory licenses are tidy little exceptions to patent laws that give anyone the right to use a patent, even without its owner’s approval. These licenses can be issued 3 years after the patent is granted if it turns out that the owner -
- Could not satisfy reasonable requirements of the public through the patented invention
- Didn’t offer the invention to the public at a reasonable price
- Did not work on the invention within India
And this assessment is made based on the details furnished by the patent owner under Form 27. You see, Form 27 requires patent owners to disclose things like details of their patent licensees, the amounts of the product that they manufacture in India and import, and their sales and revenue from the patented invention. Essentially, this reflects the demand for the invention in India, and how well the patent owner is able to meet it. So a government body can use this information to see if the patent owner is meeting all the requirements we pointed out earlier. And if the patent owner doesn't come through, they can grant compulsory licenses to somebody else.
Take the case of Germany-based Bayer Corporation's cancer drug Nexavar. Bayer sold this life-saving medication in India at sky-high prices back in 2012. A month’s dosage amounted to a whopping Rs. 2.8 lakh. So when India’s Natco Pharma said they could sell the same drug for Rs. 9000, they were granted a compulsory license to go ahead and do it.
However, some experts contend that furnishing all these details under Form 27 can be particularly cumbersome for patent owners.
So after a year of consultation, the government has decided to lower the disclosure requirements under Form 27. Now, patent owners only have to reveal the approximate revenue generated from a patent granted in India. And the government has to make an assessment based on this number alone. Ergo, they have to decide if the patent owner is price gouging using this limited information. And so, one could contest that getting your hands on a compulsory license might be a tad bit more challenging since patent owners won't have to meet the lofty standards of the past.
Big Tech vs. Hollywood
Even as the viewership of films and TV shows has been increasing, Hollywood has been struggling with low-profit margins over the last few years. And this has resulted in sub-par compensation for the talented people working in the visual effects industry. These workers have grown used to suffering through long hours, unpredictable schedules, and little benefits, with no fat paycheque to show for it. But now, it looks like they have an alternate career path- big tech.
You see, Silicon Valley has been investing billions of dollars in building immersive Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) experiences. According to Accenture, company spending in these technologies is set to grow from $21 billion in 2020 to $121 billion by 2023. And tech companies have realized that the only way AR and VR will see mass adoption is if they create lifelike experiences, realistic characters, vivid scenery and vibrant objects. The kind of stuff one can only find in movies and video games. And so, Google, Facebook, and Apple are recruiting the very artists and engineers behind these stunning visuals.
In the past few years, an increasing number of visual effects professionals working on iconic universes like Marvel, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, have moved on to better-paying jobs at tech companies building AR and VR efficiencies. According to Harvard Business School professor emeritus Shoshana Zuboff, this switch is “the latest illustration of how tech empires are able to corner critical intellectual labor.”
The Game of Sales
As the pandemic rages on across the nation, people are bored. They want to get together with their friends and family for an evening of fun and laughter, but at the same time, they also want to maintain physical distance. So, more people are now turning to multiplayer mobile gaming to bridge the gap.
And in this current environment, Flipkart is looking to strengthen its gaming strategy by acquiring gaming platform Mech Mocha.
Mech Mocha runs India’s first live social gaming platform, featuring classics like Ludo, Carrom, Snakes and Ladder, and Cricket. But the e-commerce giant’s motives behind this deal span far beyond helping people have some light-hearted fun. As Prakash Sikaria, Vice-President at Flipkart, said, “We see many first-time e-commerce users come online through formats such as video and games, as they build familiarity with the medium. Our observations of Flipkart Gamezone reflect this trend as we see a strong correlation between casual gamers becoming early shoppers on Flipkart for their digital journey.” So there you have it.
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-Written by Vedika Agarwal and Akshay Tater.