India is one of the signatories of TRIPS and has a national commitment on adherence to this important international agreement. It is, therefore, widely believed that the amended Indian Patents Act will be TRIPS compliant.
A recent circular from CGPTD:
Recently, the Controller General of Patents, Trademarks and Designs (CGPTD) of India through a circular dated December 24, 2009, directed all Patentees and Licensees to furnish information in ‘Form No.27’ on ‘Local Working of Patents’ as prescribed under Section 146 of the Patents Act., Although this directive is again a statutory requirement, nevertheless it has given rise to many speculations in several quarters as to whether ‘importation’ of products patented in India, will be considered as ‘local working of patents’ or not.
The Last date for filing the information is March 31, 2010. Only history will tell us about the possible future impact of this notification.
What does Article 27.1 say in this regard?
The Article 27.1 of TRIPS, for which India is a signatory, indicates as follows on ‘local working of patents’:
“1. Subject to the provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3, patents shall be available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are capable of industrial application. Subject to paragraph 4 of Article 65, paragraph 8 of Article 70 and paragraph 3 of this Article, patents shall be available and patent rights enjoyable without discrimination as to the place of invention, the field of technology and whether products are imported or locally produced.”
Thus as per Article 27.1 of TRIPS, if commercialization of a product patented in India, is done in India whether through imports or local manufacturing, will be considered as ‘local working of patents’.
Does Section 83 B of the Indian Patents Act conform to Article 27.1 of TRIPS?
One observes, despite Article 27.1 of TRIPS agreement, section 83 (General principles applicable to working of patented inventions) of the Indian patents Act says the following:
“(b) that they (patents) are not granted merely to enable patentees to enjoy monopoly for the importation of the patented article.”
Thus the questions that will need to be answered now are as follows:
i. Does Section 83.b conform to TRIPS 27.1?
ii. If yes, how?
iii. If not, does it merit an amendment?
iv. If the issue goes for litigation, what could the Indian High Courts likely to interpret as ‘local working of patents’?
Could it give rise to any possibility to trigger ‘Compulsory Licensing (CL)’?
For ‘Compulsory Licensing’, Section 84 of the Indian Patents Act indicates the following:
“At any time after expiration of three years from the date of the grant of patent, any person interested may make an application to the Controller for grant of compulsory license on patent on ANY of the following grounds namely:
(a) that the reasonable requirements of the public with respect to the patented invention has not been satisfied, or
(b) that the patented invention is not available to the public at a reasonable affordable price, or
(c) that the patented invention is not worked in the territory of India”
Once again, the answer to yet another question that all concerned will be interested to know is as follows:
i. What could possibly be the determinants for the India Patent Office (IPO) or High Courts to interpret, “available to the public at a reasonable affordable price?”
If these two sets of questions could find conclusive answers, much of the speculations, which are now floating around on what could the information provided through ‘Form 27’ be used or misused by the interested parties, to revoke a patent on the grounds of ‘local working’ or trigger a CL under Section 84.
In my personal view establishing either of these two grounds to the IPO to derive sheer commercial benefits, could indeed be a daunting task for any interested party.
By Tapan Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.