[Ip-health] Ambassador Nirupama Rao in The Hill's Congress Blog: India honors – not dishonors – patent laws

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Aug 15 05:12:56 PDT 2013


India honors – not dishonors – patent laws
By Nirupama Rao - 08/14/13 10:00 AM ET

India has experienced transformational economic growth over the past two
decades. Thanks in large measure to reforms that opened India’s markets to
global commerce, its Gross Domestic Product has zoomed from $189 billion in
1980 to $1.84 trillion in 2012. Innovation and entrepreneurship have been
fostered by vigorous enforcement of trade agreements and patent laws.

Intellectual property laws passed over forty years have extensively
protected patents, designs and trademarks. The Patents Act of 1970, amended
in 1999, 2002 and 2005, is considered a model in the developing world.
Critics who say otherwise are simply wrong.

Indeed, the most prominently cited example of alleged patent “infringement”
is actually a case study in patent protection. The Indian Supreme Court, in
a landmark judgment in April, turned down a request by the pharmaceutical
company Novartis to retain the patent on a cancer drug because it judged
the drug to be an extension of existing medications, not a groundbreaking
advancement. In other words, the court reinforced the premium that should
rightly be placed on truly valid patents, strengthening, not weakening,
their sanctity.

India makes a priority of complying with international treaties such as the
Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of the World
Trade Organization. In March, an Indian patent appeals court ruled that the
so-called compulsory license law that helps make medicines affordable for
the 300 million Indians who live below the poverty line, was strictly

India’s rigorous patent laws and adherence to international trade treaties
are helping its 1.2 billion people deal with many challenges. We understand
that economic growth and job creation are irrevocably linked to the rule of
law. India is proud to be a prodigious incubator of innovation and to have
gained the confidence of foreign investors.

Direct equity investments from the U.S. to India have continued to flow,
ranging between $1 billion and $2 billion a year over the last five years.
These investments have been across multiple sectors, including
pharmaceutical research. The Indian Patent Office treats the nationals of
other countries the same way it treats Indian companies. From 2005 to 2011,
more than 4,000 patents for pharmaceutical inventions were issued by the
Patent Office. Of those granted, substantial numbers - 20-30 percent - were
awarded to U.S.-based companies each year, and more than 85 percent were
owned by foreign companies in India.

At the same time, India like many developing nations struggles with
poverty, inequality and shortcomings in health care.  We have worked hard
to combat challenges to inclusive growth and development. International
treaties permit countries to make affordable, life-saving drugs available
to people most in need at affordable prices. India has done so in a way
that is both legal and sensitive to the principle of patent protection.

We have also worked hard to balance the rights of patent holders with our
civic imperative to protect public health. Compulsory licensing has been an
integral part of the patent regime of many countries for years. Fifteen
countries, both developed and developing countries alike, have issued more
than 35 compulsory licenses.

In more than six decades, India has issued only one compulsory license on a
compound pharmaceutical. This is hardly evidence of a climate hostile to
either innovation or U.S.-based companies. The provisions for compulsory
licensing are not meant to hamper the process of innovation, but to ensure
a fair balance between the interests of innovators and the urgent need for
improved health care.

India is proud to be the world’s largest producer of generic drugs with a
25 percent global market share, which has earned the country the name of
“the pharmacy of the world”.  India’s production of high-quality
antiretroviral therapies is estimated to have cut the cost of treatments
for HIV/AIDS by 99 percent, from $10,000-$15,000 per patient per year to
less than $100 – a cost saving that has improved the lives of millions of
people and provided them hope for their future.

In their Strategic Partnership, the U.S. and India cooperate on many
fronts, with health care, disease control and prevention near the top of
the list. India is dedicated to enhancing that partnership through its
careful backing of patent law.

*Rao is India's ambassador to the U.S.*

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