Outreach Activities on Intellectual Property of the Small Industries Development Organization of India

SIDO - India's SME Development Agency

The Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO) is the national SME Development Agency of India. It is a major constituent of the Ministry of Small Scale Industries of the Government of India. A senior official of the Government of India, who is designated as the Development Commissioner for Small Scale Industries (DCSSI), heads SIDO. He is also the ex-officio Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Small Scale Industries; that is, he is second in command in the bureaucratic hierarchy of the Ministry. Set up in 1954, SIDO provides services to small industry throughout the country by implementing a broad program of activities and services including the following:

  • Entrepreneurship Development
  • Tool Room Services
  • Testing Centres
  • Extension Services
  • R&D Services
  • Consultancy Services
  • Policy Development

The strength of SIDO lies in its countrywide spread of almost 100 offices/service centres, which employ over 2500 staff, mostly technical. SIDO partners and networks with other national providers of support and financial services to SMEs such as the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), the National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC), the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) (India's Central Bank) and relevant agencies of the Governments of the 28 States of the country. The Government of India essentially funds SIDO but, of late, some its activities (such as Tool Rooms, Testing Centres and Consultancy Services) are becoming increasingly self-sustaining.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and SIDO

By the late 1990s, when IP related issues were becoming important for Indian industry, SIDO decided that educating and enabling the SMEs in the country to take best advantage of the IP system should be one of its key priorities. In 2000, an IPR Cell was set up at SIDO. SIDO was fortunate to have already on its rolls an officer who, till some years ago, had been a patent examiner at the National Patent Office of India. He became the pivot of the IPR Cell. The Cell was lean, with two part time officers, one full time officer and secretarial assistance. The part time officers continued to have other responsibilities but these were somewhat reduced. The primary task of the IPR Cell was disseminating information on IPRs amongst SMEs with a view to enable them to get a better understanding of how IPRs impact upon business strategy and success in the marketplace. Within this broad mandate, the Cell was required to evolve its own mode of working.

IPR Workshops- the First Practical Steps

As a first step, in 2001, the IPR Cell began conduct of daylong sensitization workshops on IPRs for SMEs. These workshops focused on an overview of the components of the IP system from a business perspective, with a focus on understanding of patents, trademarks, designs and the copyright system. Typically, each workshop comprised of four technical sessions, each for about an hour. Presentations in two of the sessions were made by resource persons from within the SIDO and the remaining two by well-known IPR attorneys in the country. As an icebreaker, the first session - an introduction to IPRs for SMEs was always the key session. Intellectual Property Rights is a big and often a frightening term for small business. It was also a term that was largely unfamiliar in the SMEs sector in India. Those who knew something about IPRs would invariably equate it with patents. And patents were seen to be the concern of only the big, multinational companies or of big publicly funded R&D institutions. Indeed, not uncommonly, the use of the term 'intellectual property' itself lead to confusion, as in many parts of India, realtors or real estate agents/consultants are better known as 'property dealers'. For example, when a particular IPR workshop was publicized in one town in Western India, the largest number of inquiries came from 'property dealers' who somehow assumed that IPRs referred to property rights in land or real estate!

It was, therefore, necessary to demystify IPRs and talk about it in a language which a small business could understand. Thus, the first session was always almost completely non-technical and pitched to the layman; short on details, with a clear intent of creating interest in the subject of IPRs. Illustrations were carefully chosen; for example, reference was made to well-known Indian brands and to local SME success stories so that the audience could relate to the subject. Invariably, the Head of the IPR Cell of SIDO took this session.

The second session was on patents. This is where the proceedings begin to get a little technical but, once again, an attempt was made to link the presentation to the practical requirements of small business. A second resource person took this session from the IPR Cell of SIDO.

The third session (usually after lunch) was on trademarks and industrial design. Trademarks, in particular, evoked much interest since almost every small business had a trade mark, registered or not. A leading IP attorney took this session.

The fourth session was on copyrights and if time permitted, an introduction to geographical indications. An IP attorney too took this session. This was followed by an interactive session where all the speakers would be available as a panel to answer questions raised by the audience.


For planning and implementing these workshops, SIDO networked extensively. The Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), which is a constituent of the Department of Science & Technology, invariably contributed by making available extensive IP literature and by meeting the travel costs of many of the external resource persons. The Local SMEs Associations and Chambers of Commerce generally came forward to partly defray the cost for making the organizational arrangements for the workshop as well as for ensuring adequate and active participation of their members. WIPO made available its brochures and its CD-ROM on IPRs for SMEs. The State Governments ensured that key decision-makers in the State Industries Department participated in these workshops. The local field offices of SIDO took care of all arrangements relating to logistics. The workshops were widely publicized in each instance and planned well in advance. Written feedback from the participants was invariably obtained after each workshop and was used as input for improving the workshops in the future.

Funding Pattern

In general, each daylong workshop required some Indian Rupees 60,000 (some USD1300) for the organizational arrangements. The cost included charges for hiring the venue, publicity, lunch and tea/coffee as well as cost of replication of background material. This cost was met through Government funds but participants were charged a nominal fee ranging from Rs.150/- to Rs.1000/- per head depending on the location. In some instances, where a local SME association would join hands, then they would sponsor lunch or the stay of some resource persons. On an average 80 to 100 delegates participated in each workshop. Often external resource persons extended their service on a voluntary basis at SIDO's request. SIDO only paid each external speaker a token honorarium and arranged for his or her local hospitality. This expenditure did not include the cost of travel and stay of resource persons, which was generally about Indian Rupees 40,000.

Results of Workshops

These workshops have yielded encouraging results.

  1. Apart from spreading awareness, they have helped to identify and document success stories of SMEs in India who have succeeded in the exploitation and use of the IP System. This has also helped in developing training material based on local and current examples and case studies of Indian SMEs, which have profited from effective use of the IPR system in their business strategy. A number of entrepreneurs and managers of SMEs in India have taken steps to evaluate options for getting their trademarks registered or seek other forms of IP protection.
  2. For instance, a women entrepreneur in the city of Calcutta who attended one such seminar, subsequently went in for design protection for her innovative designs of cane furniture.
  3. A grassroots innovator from rural Rajasthan (a State in Western India) approached SIDO for assistance in filing a patent for an improved agriculture implement. His application for grant of patent is currently with the New Delhi Branch of the Indian Patent Office.
  4. Some other beneficiaries/participants of the workshops have also initiated steps for registering their trademarks.
  5. Importantly, these workshops have helped SIDO to reach out to other Government agencies and NGOs working on IP issues. It has also inspired many State Governments and others to come up with similar programs. For example, the northern State of Haryana is currently (September 2003) drawing up its own plans for running similar workshops and creating a Patent Facilitation Cell to assist entrepreneurs for acquiring IP protection.
  6. So far, beginning from 2001, over 25 such Workshops have been organized in different parts of India, which cover 20 of the 28 States of the country. Each venue was a different city and each experience was different. While in some instances the response was overwhelming and registration had to be stopped for logistical reasons, in others the participation had to be actively mobilized. In some cases, one program would be followed by requests for many more at other nearby locations.

Contribution of WIPO

Collaboration with WIPO became a regular phenomenon soon after the IPR Cell was set up. Two officers of SIDO have participated in three-day training programs organized by WIPO in Thailand and the Republic of Korea. IPR literature and CD-ROMs on IP for SMEs developed by WIPO, which were made available free of charge to SIDO, were distributed at these workshops. Speakers from WIPO have participated in only three of the 25 workshops organized by SIDO. In addition, in its 3rd National Convention of Small Scale Industries in August, 2002, an hour and a half long presentation was made by a senior representative of the SMEs Division of WIPO to some 1,200 representatives of SME associations and decision makers from all over the country. On its part, SIDO has contributed to the case studies developed in the country to the case studies section of the Web site of the SMEs Division of WIPO.

Next Steps

After the first set of workshops in 2001, in 2002 it is felt necessary to also take up industry specific workshops, since general one-day sensitization workshops can only achieve a limited objective. This meant an extra effort for customization of awareness and training material and industry-specific capacity building of resource persons/trainers. It also means varying the emphasis on different types of IPRs as their importance varies differs from industry to industry. For instance, in the pharmaceutical industry, patents seem to be far more important than industrial designs. On the other hand, in the highly cost-conscious and competitive Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry, branding (trademarks and designs) is apparently far more important than patents. To begin with, the toy industry and the pharmaceutical industry were taken up, as these were two segments of the Indian industry where national industry associations were proactive. In respect of toys, considering the state of the industry, the focus was on trademarks and industrial design, while in pharmaceuticals, the focus was primarily on patents and to a lesser extent, on trademarks. For toys, it helped that a UNIDO assisted national program for the development of the toy Industry is concurrently being implemented by SIDO.

Along with general and industry specific workshops, steps were initiated for improving the quality of literature made available to entrepreneurs. With the prior permission of the WIPO, seven articles on the Web site of the SMEs Division of WIPO were republished and placed in an attractive folder which was made available to every participant in the workshops organized in late 2001 onwards. To make sure that the message in respect of IPRs reached out to people who needed it, all the seven articles were translated into Hindi and printed in the same manner as those in English. Networking was in evidence here as well, as the services of the Department of Official Languages of the Government of India were utilized for the translation. SIDO's web portal carried its own write up on IP issues with links to WIPO's SMEs Web site.

Future Strategy

SIDO will continue to organize general and industry specific workshops on IPRs, as in a country of India's size, 25 workshops are completely inadequate. The industry specific workshops will tend to be in or near corresponding industry clusters. In cooperation with the SMEs Division of WIPO, action has been initiated (in September 2003) for customizing WIPO's Guide on Trademarks for SMEs ("Making a Mark") , based on Indian trademark law, practice, and illustrations/examples. On the anvil are workshops of 'training of trainers so that in each of its offices, SIDO is able to position at least one officer who is IP savvy. This is likely to be a residential program of one-week duration involving master trainers from WIPO, SIDO's resource person and external faculty such as ÍP attorneys and University Professors of IPRs in India. A national workshop on issues of IP evaluation and valuation, acceptance of IP as collateral and financing the creation of IP assets is also envisaged in early 2004.

SIDO's endeavor for creating IPR awareness is part of a larger plan for the internationalization and enhancing the competitiveness of Indian SMEs in a globalizing marketplace. Other elements of this plan include upgrading technology, superior infrastructure, adoption of quality systems, marketing support and credit facilitation.

For more information contact iprcell@sidomail.com