For many innovative companies, the first yardstick while devising a market-entry strategy is\u00a0favorable\u00a0intellectual property (IP) regime. India is one such market that embraces innovators with open arms.\r\n\r\nIn fact, it serves as its competitive advantage over other large markets in the region.\r\n\r\nIndia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a signatory of all major treaties on IP rights. It's not unusual to find similarities between India and\u00a0other major economies\u00a0in terms of securing, protecting, enforcing and litigating IP rights.\r\n\r\nMost notably, India is a signatory of the Paris Convention and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which allows a company\u00a0from a PCT signatory country\u00a0to file a patent application in\u00a0their home country, which can be subsequently examined in India without a separate Indian application.\r\nBe early!\r\nIndia follows a \u2018first-to-file\u2019 system, by which the rights are granted to the applicant who files before anyone else, who may or may not be the actual inventor. It is advisable to apply for the patent as soon as possible, even as early as the stage of market research. In order to be granted a patent, the invention also needs to be novel, involve a significant and non-obvious step and should have a commercially viable application.\r\nIt pays to license your innovation\r\nIndia is characterised by complexity in geographies and cultures. Even if a\u00a0foreign\u00a0company acquires Indian patent protection, it might not have adequate bandwidth to fully exploit its commercial potential. Therefore, IP licensing becomes an attractive opportunity to tap the resources of the local partners while enjoying rights of the invention.\r\n\r\nHowever, one should be extremely diligent while drafting such licensing agreements to avoid mistrust over licensor-licensee, failure to come to the revenue-sharing model and ever-evolving market dynamics.\r\nFor startups, its\u2019 even sweeter\r\nWith close to 5,000 startups and growing by approximately 20% a year \u2013 India is the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, playing neck-to-neck with Israel.\r\n\r\nAcknowledging that most startups have limited manpower and financial resources, the Government of India revamped the national IP policy in 2016 to make it significantly easier and faster to secure patents.\r\n\r\nIn addition to the expedited patent examination, Government of India provides eligible startups with a free consultation with patent agents\/attorneys and significant subsidies on patent application fees.\r\nPatents are now faster to obtain\r\nAccording to Mayank Sood, a partner at K&S Partners, a leading IP law firm in India, \u201cThe rate of processing patent applications have picked up significantly in last few years. The average duration of examination reduced from seven years to four\/five years. While the number of applications processed went up from 17,000 (2015-16) to 60,000 (2016-17). That\u2019s a dramatic improvement\u201d.\r\n\r\nThe general perception of a long waiting period to obtain IP registration has now become a story of the past. \u201cRecent amendments in the legislation made it easy for one to file and expedite applications\u201d says Aaron Solomon, a partner at Solomon and Co., a reputed law firm having extensive experience of advising\u00a0foreign\u00a0clients\u00a0in India.\r\nThe Way Ahead\r\nAs per the US Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Centre\u2019s [GIPC] International IP Index (2018),\u00a0India moved\u00a0up in its ranking and now stands at 44 out of 50 economies which is a substantial jump in relative and absolute terms alike.\r\n\r\nIndia has proved itself with the largest percentage improvement by any country according to the GIPC.\u00a0Considering it\u2019s giant size, favorable IP laws and the push by federal government to boost innovation, India should be a focus market for\u00a0global\u00a0innovation.\r\n\r\n\u201cIndia has always been an amiable location for innovative companies and there have not been any major issues while deciding who owns the rights," says Vishal Dharmadhikari, CEO of India Cyber Connect, who has extensive experience in cooperation between\u00a0foreign\u00a0and Indian companies in the cybersecurity space.\r\n\r\n"Indian companies have mostly been respectful towards\u00a0innovative\u00a0technologies\u00a0from all over the world\u201d.\u00a0That said, it always pays off to be well-informed while protecting intellectual property," he added.\r\n\r\nThe article has been written with inputs from Adv. Pooja Arambhan, a Mumbai-based corporate lawyer.