Recently we witnessed yet another huge controversy on the ‘IP Summit’ organized by the George Washington University Law School (GWULS), USA. It was alleged that this summit supported by law firms, some pharmaceutical companies and others, was intended to influence the participating sitting judges on the pharmaceutical patent related cases currently being fought in various courts in India.
However, the GWULS reiterated that this summit is intended to help India to build capacity in the IP law of the country. GWULS states the following in its magazine of winter 2009:
“From New Delhi to Bangalore, GW Law is building bridges of understanding between the United States and Indian legal communities through its fast-growing India Project, a collaborative enterprise fostering broad-based relationships and heightened international dialogue on issues of mutual concern”.
During their recent visit to India, in an announcement to the media GWULS explained the following:
“We have contributed to education by heightening the dialogue and understanding between India and the U.S. on IP law. We have done so in a collaborative way, as we have much to learn from our Indian counterparts. For example, the new Indian patent law, enacted in 2005, involves a range of issues that require clarification, and the project has resulted in a two-way discussion of real importance to the future of IP protection in India and across the world. Is the new law in compliance with Indian constitutional standards? How does it compare with U.S. law in addressing issues that arise during the processing of a patent application? (With regard to this question we recently held educational sessions with patent examiners at various Indian patent offices). Is it consistent with international standards? These are just some of the issues that attract the attention of people associated with GW’s India Project.”
The Counter Arguments:
The other group strongly counter argues highlighting that Indian judiciary and lawmakers have a long history of dealing with the patent laws since 1911. Although in between from 1970 to 2004, the situation slightly changed with the abolition of ‘Pharmaceutical Product Patent’, the re-introduction of the same effective January 1, 2005, does not call for an ‘un-called for’ indirect intervention in the judicial process of the country by law schools located beyond the shores of India.
This group feels that GWULS indirectly casts aspersions on the legal standard of the country and the competence of Indian judiciary, which needs to be protested, unequivocally. Moreover, the group argues, “even if IP awareness had to be taken to the people once again after the 2005 amendment, why did GWULS mount such a major campaign here?”
So far the Patent Law is concerned; this group accepts that our Patent Attorneys and particularly those lawyers who will argue the cases in front of the judges must possess impeccable knowledge in the nuances of patent law with all its nitty- gritty. Thus lawyers rather than judges should regularly update their knowledge on the details of patent related issues.
Laws are by and large country specific, with an exception probably of international law. After hearing the arguments of respective lawyers, this group feels that the judge will interpret the law of the land and give his/her judgment accordingly, as happens in any other comparable sphere of law. Just as for laws related to ‘terrorist’ act, India will not require its judges to be trained by other countries, this group reiterates, the same argument holds good for patent law, as well.
The Times of India (March 29, 2010), a leading daily of the country, reported the following in a news item titled, “’Vested interests behind discussion on patents”:
“Several civil society groups have come together to question the commerce and industry ministry’s alleged complicity in allowing meetings and interactions undermining India’s legal position on intellectual property (IP). These interactions are being organized annually with Indian judges and policy makers by the George Washington University Law School (GW Law), under its India Project, with funding from multinational pharmaceutical companies, industry associations and corporate law firms”.
Be that as it may, the arguments from either side do not seem to be unbiased without any vested interests and are not convincing enough. In a globalized economy, from such comments it appears that the one group is feeling that Indian legal system is inefficient, if not incompetent, to deal with its patent related cases involving global pharmaceutical companies. On the other side, the local voice seems to be afraid of a ‘foreign hand’ intruding into the judicial space of India, which in my view is stretching the imagination far too much.
Overall, Indian Judiciary has a long tradition of keeping the institution robust enough and free from any external influences, whatsoever, notwithstanding GWULS coming to India almost every year, since around 2005.
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.