In what could give some relief to the US and Big Pharma, pushing for a more liberal intellectual property rights (IPR) regime rewarding innovators in India, the final draft of the National IPR Policy has laid an “overwhelming” emphasis on the need to “strengthen” IPR enforcement and awareness creation.
The final draft, which maintains that the country’s IPR policy is fully compliant with the World Trade Organisation’s agreement on Trade Related aspects of IPR (TRIPS), is being circulated for inter-ministerial consultations and will soon be taken up by the Cabinet, official sources told FE.
However, they said the government is not inclined to make any changes in the IPR policy that will affect India’s strength in generic drugs or in the WTO-enabled flexibility in ensuring the availability of essential and life-saving medicines at affordable prices. Only genuine innovation will be encouraged and not efforts for ever-greening of patents through insignificant improvements, the sources said.
Stronger IPR enforcement (through increased manpower at the IP offices and better e-filing and search facilities) is aimed at instilling confidence among foreign players to bring in more FDI and invest in R&D, while the focus on IPR awareness is meant to increase filings by Indians, especially by medium and small enterprises (currently, foreign entities account for over 75% of patent filings in India). The final draft also envisages the setting up of more courts and benches (in High Courts) for speedy disposal of IPR cases.
On increasing the manpower at IP offices to reduce workload of officers and thereby pendency of IPR filings, the government is in the process of creating over 1,000 posts as sanctioned in the 12th Plan period (2012-17). It is also implementing a plan to modernise and strength IP offices at a cost of Rs 310 crore of which Rs 258 crore will be spent during 12th Plan and Rs 52 crore in the 13th Plan.
The final draft has not made any direct mention of two provisions that the US has objected to: The patent-disabling compulsory licences (CL) as well as the “additional filter” of Section 3(d) in India’s Patents Act regarding pharma patenting as per which, in addition to novelty and inventive step, improvement in therapeutic efficacy is a criteria for patenting when it comes to incremental inventions. The sources, however, added that Section 3(d) and CLs are expected to remain part of the IPR regime as they are TRIPS-compatible.
The final draft is in favour of strengthening India’s copyright laws, especially since the local film and music industry complained against piracy impacting them. To counter online piracy, the new norms being considered include efficient mechanisms for rights holders to ensure removal of infringing content from websites. Parliamentary approval is being sought for anti-camcording provisions in the Cinematographic Bill.
The US Trade Representative (USTR), in its annual special 301 report on IPR regimes of its trading partners, had said India will remain on its ‘priority watch list’ this year due to concerns including the IPR regime favouring generic drugs, local manufacturers and Indian IPR owners. India dismissed this report as a unilateral measure by the US that is not consistent with the multilateral trade rules.
The USTR, however, had said it is looking forward to the new channels for engagement created in the past year (such as the US-India IPR working group) bringing about “substantive and measurable improvements in India’s IPR regime for the benefit of … innovative and creative industries”.