Even as India has resisted pressure from developed countries like the US to dilute certain contentious provisions in the Patents Act 1970, its intellectual property rights (IPRs) policy announced last week brings in much-needed “clarity” on the country’s IPR regime ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June.
On Monday, commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the announcement of the new policy will bring in further clarity on the country’s IPR regime. While the new policy focussed on creating a robust IPR eco-system, it refrained from suggesting any change to Section 3(d) and compulsory licensing provisions in the Patents Act.
Separately, Sitharaman said the US Special 301 report on IPR is a “unilateral” move and no country has any right to interfere in the sovereign position of another nation. Recently, releasing its annual 301 report, the US retained India on its priority watch list, citing “lack of sufficient measurable improvements” to the IP framework despite robust engagement and positive steps on intellectual property protection and enforcement by the Indian government in the last two years.
Responding to concerns expressed by developed countries like the US on Section 3(d) and compulsory licensing, finance minister Arun Jaitley asserted last week: “We do believe that the balancing act which India has struck is responsible for life-saving drugs available at a reasonable cost in India compared to the rest of the world. So, our model seems to be both legal, equitable and WTO-compliant.”
Section 3(D) prevents ever-greening of drug patents. Apart from novelty and inventive step, the section provides for improvement in therapeutic efficacy for the grant of patents when it comes to incremental inventions. Compulsory licensing allows domestic players to produce cheaper versions of patented drugs. The US and the EU have been putting India on India to make appropriate changes to these provisions to boost innovation, research and development (R&D) and foreign investment.