[Ip-health] Times of India: Government holding IP conference with MNCs, their lawyers, excluding civil society, academics

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Nov 17 09:53:47 PST 2014


Government holding IP conference with MNCs, their lawyers, excluding civil
society, academicsRema Nagarajan,TNN | Nov 17, 2014, 07.12 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The government of India claims to seek balance of public and
private interests in intellectual property rights. Yet, the government is
co-sponsoring a conference on intellectual property (IP) protection and
enforcement along with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) dominated
by speakers and participants from corporations and law firms working on IP,
with zero representation from civil society and independent academics or
researchers on the subject from India.

The government's association with such a one-sided conference leaving out
academia and civil society organisations who work on the impact of
intellectual property on areas of public interest such as access to
medicines, knowledge and technology has drawn howls of protest from civil
society organisations. The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion
(DIPP) of the Commerce ministry is organizing the two-day conference along
with CII from November 20 in Noida.

"If the government of India is involved, it is duty bound to make the
conference agenda inclusive and to take care on board all the stakeholders,
both private and public interests. But the agenda completely excludes not
only all the public interest views, but also the view of Indian
pharmaceutical business," pointed out civil society groups.

The agenda of the conference seems to be focused on tightening patent
protection and making patent laws stringent beyond the requirements of the
WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
(TRIPS). "The conference comes at an extremely sensitive time when so many
cases related to IP enforcement against generic competitors are coming up
in various high courts in India. It's also a time when India is under
tremendous pressure from the US to open up the debate on interpretation of
its patent law. Hence it is crucial to have a more balanced debate. You
cannot have a discussion on IP without referring to the context of cases
being brought against the government in various courts and the pressure
from the US. India needs to be very cautious at this juncture," said Leena
Menghaney a member of the Campaign for Affordable Transtuzumab (a breast
cancer drug).

The agenda states clearly that the participants will get a chance to meet
speakers from DIPP, controller general of patents, trademark and design and
customs commissioners. Thus it seems to be a platform for US government and
US corporations to lobby with Indian policy makers and pressurize them.
Pratibha Singh, member of the recently constituted IP think tank is
chairing one of the sessions in the conference on role of customs and
police in IP enforcement. The IP think tank of the commerce ministry has
the mandate to draft a national IPR policy and to "identify areas in the
IPR requiring studies to be conducted" and recommend necessary changes in
the administrative, legal and legislative fields.

India's position has been to not officially engage with office of the US
trade representative (USTR) or the US International Trade Commission
(USITC) on complaints of lack of IP protection. Yet, the Indian government
is sponsoring or paying to provide a platform for greater IP protection and
enforcement advocacy by the US Government and its corporations. This has
raised questions about whether India is bowing to US pressure.

Civil Society groups have expressed skepticism over the timing of the
conference coinciding with the visit of the US patent lobby, Intellectual
Property Owner's Association's delegation to India from November 16-21.

Interestingly, CII is also a cosponsor of the IPOA visit. The IPOA
delegation's agenda included visits to Intellectual Property Offices (IPO)
in Chennai and Delhi, Intellectual Property Appellate Tribunal (IPAB) and
High Court of Delhi. Health activists had written to the chief justice of
both the Supreme Court and the high court and IPAB appealing that the
visits be cancelled citing serious conflict of interest. Many of these
visits have since been cancelled in light of the protests from civil
society citing serious conflict of interest in allowing the delegation
access to the higher judiciary and Indian officials.

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