“India is The Biggest Battlefield for Intellectual Property Rights”

The US Senator Orrin Hatch reportedly made the above comment while introducing the 2014 report on ‘International Intellectual Property (IP) Index’, prepared by an Israel based consultancy firm – Pugatch Consilium for the Global Intellectual Property Centre (GIPC) of the US Chamber of Commerce. In this forum, the Senator further alleged, “India misuses its own IP system to boost its domestic industries”.

Similar comment on South African IP Policy:

It is interesting to note that this ‘Battle Cry’ on IPR follows almost similar belligerent utterance of a Washington DC-based lobbying firm named ‘Public Affairs Engagement (PAE)’, reportedly headed by a former US ambassador Mr. James Glassman.

PAE, in a recent South African IP policy related context, as deliberated in my earlier blog titled, “Big Pharma’s Satanic Plot is Genocide”: South Africa Roars”, had stated in January 2014, “Without a vigorous campaign, opponents of strong IP will prevail, not just in South Africa, but eventually in much of the rest of the developing world.”

The GIPC report:

That said, in the GIPC report, India featured at the bottom of 25 countries on Intellectual Property (IP) protection with a score of 6.95 out of 30. Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Argentina also scored low in overall ranking on protection for patents, copyright and trademarks. The United States ranked at the top, followed closely by Britain and France.

Interestingly, no country could register a “perfect” score in the survey, which used 30 factors ranging from levels of counterfeiting and piracy to patents and legal protections for all kinds of products and services ranging from pharmaceuticals to software to Hollywood films.

Among other BRIC countries, Russia with a score of 13.28, China with 11.62 and Brazil with 10.83, ranked 13th, 17th and 19th, respectively, within the selected 25 countries.

Key reasons, especially related to pharmaceuticals, as cited for the poor rating of India are as follows:

  • “Patentability requirements in violations of TRIPS”
  • “Regulatory Data Protection (RDP) not available”
  • “Patent term restoration not available”
  • “Use of Compulsory Licensing (CL) for commercial non-emergency situation”

The ground reality in India:

The answers to all these questions are much discussed and now an integral part of Indian Patents Act, as enacted by the Parliament of the country after prolong deliberations by the astute lawmakers keeping patients’ interest at the center.

As I had indicated earlier, there does not seem to be any possibility of these laws getting amended now or in foreseeable future, despite the above ‘Battle Cry’, Special 301 Watch List of the US, and continuous poor rating by the US Chamber of Commerce. This is mainly because of humanitarian sentiments attached to this issue, which are robust and sensitive enough to ignore even politically in India. Let me try to address all these 4 points briefly as follows:

“Patentability requirements in violations of TRIPS”:

Patentability is related mainly to Section 3(d) of the Patents Act. India has time and again reiterated that this provision is TRIPS compliant. If there are still strong disagreements in the developed world, the Dispute Settlement Body of the ‘World Trade Organization (WTO)’can be approached for a resolution, as the WTO has clearly articulated as follows:

“WTO members have agreed that if they believe fellow-members are violating trade rules, they will use the multilateral system of settling disputes instead of taking action unilaterally. That means abiding by the agreed procedures, and respecting judgments. A dispute arises when one country adopts a trade policy measure or takes some action that one or more fellow-WTO members considers to be breaking the WTO agreements, or to be a failure to live up to obligations.”

Thus, it is quite challenging to fathom, why those countries, instead of creating so much of hullabaloo, are not following the above approach in the WTO for the so called ‘patentability’ issue in India?

Regulatory Data Protection (RDP) not available”:

In this context, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma had reportedly asserted earlier at a meeting of consultative committee of the Parliament as follows:

“India does not provide data exclusivity for pharmaceuticals and agro-chemicals which is in the paramount interest of our generic pharmaceutical industry as grant of data exclusivity would have considerable impact in delaying the entry into the market of cheaper generic drugs.”

Hence, the question of having RDP in India does not possibly arise, at least, in near to mid term, which would require moving an amendment in the relevant Act through the Parliament.

Patent term restoration not available”:

Again, this provision does not exist in the Indian Patents Act. Hence, in this case too, a change does not seem likely, at least, in near to mid term, by bringing an amendment through the Parliament.

Use of Compulsory Licensing (CL) for commercial non-emergency situation”:

Besides situations like, national emergency or extreme urgency, the current CL provisions, as per the Indian Patents Act, specifically state that at any time after the expiration of three years from the grant of patent, any interested person may make an application to the Patent Controller for grant of patent on the following grounds:

  • Whether the reasonable requirements of the public with respect to the patented invention have been satisfied?
  • Whether the patented invention is available to the public at a reasonable affordable price?
  • Whether the patented invention is worked in the territory of India?

It is worth mentioning, the Government has no authority to direct any individual for not applying for any CL under the above provision of the statute, hence law will take its own course in this area too, unless an amendment through Parliament is made in the Patents Act, which seems very unlikely again in the near to medium term.

Eyebrows raised on methodology and motive behind the ‘IP Index’ report:

Media report indicates that IP experts in India have questioned the methodology and even the motive behind GIPC’s ‘International Intellectual Property (IP) Index’ where India has been ranked the lowest among 25 countries.

The same article quotes a well-known IP expert saying, “Underlying this report is a major paradox that protecting weak patents makes the IP regime a strong one. Countries such as India that have stood up for genuine innovation and refused to protect trivial inventions have been accused of having ‘weak’ IP regimes, while it should have been the other way round.”

The article also mentions that Pugatch Consilium, which provides advisory services to top global drug makers and their trade associations, drafted the report for the US Chamber of Commerce.

Conclusion:

Keeping aside the strong allegation that the GIPC report has some ulterior motive behind, the high profile PR blitzkrieg of the pharma multinational trade associations, quite in tandem with South African outburst on the same IP issue, as I wrote in my blog post “Big Pharma’s Satanic Plot is Genocide”: South Africa Roars”, is indeed noteworthy.

However, even if one goes purely by the merits of the report with GIPC’s reasoning on ‘Why is India losing ground’, I reckon, despite so much of cost-intensive efforts and pressures by the global pharma lobbying groups, their expectation for a change in the pharma patents regime in India, any time soon, is probably much more than just a wishful thinking.

By: Tapan J. 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.

 

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