[Ip-health] From think tank to trade reports – IP on the boil, again

K.M. Gopakumar kumargopakm at gmail.com
Sun Oct 26 05:57:54 PDT 2014


 [image: Return to frontpage] <http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/>
 From think tank to trade reports – IP on the boil, again P. T. Jyothi Datta
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   Mumbai, Oct. 26:

Close to 10 years after the Indian Patents Act was amended in January 2005,
discussions around intellectual property are on the boil again.

Last week, the Government set up a think tank to draft a national policy on
intellectual property rights (IPR), and have a coordinated IP approach
across various Government departments.

And while this is an opportunity for India to counter criticism from some
global quarters on its IP enforcement track-record, the discussion is not
without its concerns. From the composition of the think-tank to concerns on
whether features in the amended Patents Act would be watered-down –
questions abound. And transparency will be key, as the Government
formulates its IP road-map and the think tank begins its meetings, the
first of which is expected this week.

With Prime Minister Modi’s agenda of “make in India” as the canvas, the
thrust will be on spurring innovation at home. While none may disagree with
this, the challenge will be in protecting innovator rights, without for
instance, whittling down public health concerns of citizens.

IP think tank member, senior advocate Pratibha Singh says, they would work
as a support group, so the Government can have a coordinated approach and
encourage more people to innovate and produce in India. Beyond this, the
aim is to produce a single document outlining India’s IP achievements.
These range from documenting measures taken involving online copyrights to
communicating outcomes where foreign companies have in fact got injunctions
in their favour.

*Concerns on dilution*

Healthworkers laud the presence of Justice Prabha Sridevan as Chairperson
of the think tank, but express concern on the absence of other seasoned IP
academicians. IP lawyers also worry on the fate of section 3 (d) of the
amended Patents Act that disallows frivolous patents, unless the product
shows greater efficacy.

Despite Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s assurances on the Patents
Act, there is concern being expressed in IP circles on testimonies made by
Arvind Subramanian, before he was appointed as India’s Chief Economic
Adviser. He had termed some provisions in the Act as “problematic”, in
submissions made in the U.S. earlier this year in the run up to two US
trade reports.

The Special 301 report in April stopped short of further downgrading India,
but nevertheless called for “out of cycle” reviews. This annual
controversial report grades U.S. trade partners on their IP track-record.

The second report, by the U.S. International Trade Commission, is expected
next month. Here, the U.S. evaluates the impact India’s trade policies have
had on American businesses. And in the past, several U.S. trade and
congress representatives have criticized India’s trade policies and IP
enforcement, especially involving pharmaceuticals. In fact, they caution,
the lack of IP protection would hold back both innovation and investment.

*IP and innovation*

Against this backdrop, a recent study – “Innovation, Intellectual Property,
FDI & Economic Growth: A Scholarly Review of Findings”- by three
academicians observed that while innovation was key to economic growth,
suggesting strong IP rights were essential to provide incentives for
innovation was “ambiguous” . Economists too are divided on the relationship
between IP and foreign direct investment, it said, adding that stronger IP
may induce “adverse welfare effects”.

A “careful and creative policy deliberation” involving multi-party
dialogues is required, the report said, especially in markets where
societies grapple with availability and access to healthcare and incentives
for medical innovation. The report was commissioned by the Indian
Pharmaceutical Alliance, a body representing large Indian drug companies.

But as more conflicting, though well-reasoned viewpoints are put on the
table, the think tank has its task cut out. But it’s going to be anything
but easy.
 (This article was published on October 26, 2014)



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