Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to the US, the government has embarked on a process to make the country’s intellectual property rights (IPR) regime, decried by some of the largest US-based transnational firms as weak and restrictive, more robust.
The government will in six months bring out a liberal and comprehensive IPR policy that will address the concerns of the developed world while safeguarding India’s interests, senior government functionaries said here. The government will also facilitate the establishment of a think tank of experts to keep itself informed about the latest IPR issues as well as to help it handle them proactively, they said.
The move comes against the backdrop of India’s allegations that the US was taking a “unilateral measure” through the Special 301 process to create pressure on countries to accept IPR protection beyond the agreement on trade-related IPRs. In April, the Special 301 report (an annual review of the global state of IPR protection and enforcement) had classified India as a “priority watch list country”.
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Separately, the European Union has been pitching for a special IPR dispensation for pharmaceutical companies from the bloc under the proposed India-EU free trade pact.
New Delhi had said the Special 301 process is an extraterritorial application of the domestic law of a country and is not tenable under the overall WTO regime.
The Special 301 report flagged concerns over Section 3(d) of India’s Patent Act and compulsory licensing. Section 3(d) does not allow a patent to be granted to inventions involving new forms of a known substance unless it differs significantly in properties with regard to efficacy.
The department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP), the nodal body administering the IPR regime consistent with India’s international commitments, will come out with a draft discussion paper within four months. This will be kept open on the DIPP website for suggestions from the general public and all stakeholders for another two months, following which the comprehensive policy will be announced.
The move comes at a time when the Modi government is carrying out a massive skilling exercise aimed at generating employment in the manufacturing sector to raise its share in the country’s GDP from around 16% to 25% by 2022. A strong IPR regime is considered complementary to this effort as many global companies, especially transnational pharma majors from the US and EU have long said that they could set up manufacturing and R&D facilities in India provided the IPR regime is strengthened.
“The IPR policy will not be restrictive or regressive but it will only give clarity and consistency without any overlap or contradictions. It is also to protect at an international level India’s IPR interests, our heritage, our achievements in pharma, especially generics, the advances we make in science and technology, as well as the patents we file,” commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a briefing marking 100 days of the Modi government.
“There are different laws (on patents, copyrights, trademarks and geographical indication), but we don’t have a comprehensive IPR policy clearly spelling out our regime for the entire world to know. As a result we have had arbitration matters and court cases on many IPR matters. The lack of a clear policy is hurting us,” the minister said.
Comprehensive IPR policy in 6 months; to address concerns of developed nations while safeguarding India’s interests
Set up think tank to keep itself informed about latest IPR issues as well as to help it handle them proactively
India said US unilaterally using Special 301 process to get countries to accept IPR protection beyond TRIPs
fe Bureau | The Financial Express