Expressing concern over the government’s alleged ‘competition-distorting’ policies ‘favouring’ local intellectual property rights (IPR) owners and domestic manufacturing, the US has asked India again to solicit inputs and conduct stakeholder consultations on the proposed National IPR Policy.
The US Trade Representative (USTR), which had raised these concerns in its annual special 301 report on IPR regimes of its trading partners, said India will remain on the ‘Priority Watch List’ this year, “but with the full expectation that the new channels for engagement created in the past year (such as the US-India IPR working group) will bring about substantive and measurable improvements in India’s IPR regime for the benefit of a broad range of innovative and creative industries.”
The local industry, however, has contested the allegations, reiterating its position that India’s IPR regime is fully TRIPS-compliant.
Domestic stakeholders say a majority of patents granted by India went to foreign firms and that incidences of patent revocations in India have been lower than the US, perceived to be the most liberal in grant of IPRs.
A government-appointed think tank had accepted comments to the draft National IPR Policy till January 30 and held stakeholders’ meetings on February 5. The US, too, had submitted its comments in January itself.
Though Washington has spared India from an ‘out-of-cycle review’ this time, it said progress will be monitored over the coming months, and action will be taken if necessary. The US report welcomed the recent statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi recommending that India align its patent laws with international standards and wanted New Delhi to expeditiously undertake this initiative.
Sources say that even though the US has raised several IPR issues related to the pharma industry (such as provisions favouring generic drugs), the Indian government will not change the IPR regime on pharma products.
They, however, added that the USTR’s concerns on piracy of copyright items will be taken on board by Centre and India’s copyright laws would be strengthened as the domestic music and film industry have also complained against piracy hurting creativity and hitting their bottom-line. The new norms could include notice-and-takedown procedures and other efficient mechanisms for rights holders to seek removal of infringing content from websites to counter online piracy in addition to ensuring the Parliamentary approval to anti-camcording provisions in the Cinematographic Bill.
On ‘localisation’, the USTR cited examples in India that have the potential to impact the development of globally-successful and innovative industries.
It said the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority’s pricing restrictions on 509 drug formulations that became effective in April exempts certain medicines made in India and “developed using indigenous R&D” and allows them to be priced higher, providing an advantage to Indian companies.
In addition, the Indian Intellectual Property Appellate Board’s interpretation of Section 84 of India’s Patents Act suggests that a patent could be subject to a compulsory licence if the product is not manufactured in India, the USTR said.