India retained on US Special 301 watch list

New Delhi, Washington, April 29 | Updated: Apr 30 2006, 06:41am hrs
Despite Indias adoption of the product patents regime in early 2005, the United States has retained India among the most severe category of countries accused of not providing an adequate level of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection.

Washington has, however, taken Pakistan off the priority watch list of countries providing inadequate IPR protection after Islamabad improved its patent laws and enforcement machinery.

The annual Special 301 Report by the office of US Trade Representative (USTR) has included India among the 48 countries that have been retained in the priority watch list 2006. India made some improvements to its IPR regime during the past year but IPR protection concerns remain due to inadequate laws and ineffective enforcement, the USTR said in the report.

The United States urges India to improve its IPR regime by providing stronger protection for copyrights, trademarks, and patents as well as protection against unfair commercial use of undisclosed test and other data submitted by pharmaceutical companies seeking marketing approval for their products, it said even while calling on New Delhi to join and implement the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) treaties.

WIPO has been spearheading a global campaign to harmonise patent examination, search and grant standards in countries around the world. India is already a member of the WIPO but faces opposition domestically to implement all its treaties. Additionally, the US government, under pressure from its pharma industry lobbies, has been arguing with New Delhi for data exclusivity on new drugs introduced in India.

India improved its patent protection regime when it passed legislation in early 2005 to provide for product patents for pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals. While this was a positive step, the new legislation has important omissions that detract from Indias patent regime. Additionally Indias copyright laws and enforcement system are weak, the USTR said in its report.

It noted that although New Delhi had pledged to improve the trademark regime, foreign trademark owners experience difficulties due to procedural barriers and delay.

What has been pointed out also is that Indias criminal enforcement of IPR is weak, the deficiencies in a number of areas including border enforcement, judicial dispositions and imposition of deterrent sentences.

The United States urges India to address these issues during the coming year and thereby strengthen its ipr regime, it said.