[Ip-health] Has PM Modi bowed to US pressure on patent laws?

K.M. Gopakumar kumargopakm at gmail.com
Fri Oct 3 02:28:24 PDT 2014

Has PM Modi bowed to US pressure on patent laws?Rema Nagarajan,TNN | Oct 3,
2014, 05.59 AM IST
A paragraph buried in the US-India joint statement, which talks of
establishing an annual high-level Intellectual Property (IP) working group
as part of the Trade Policy Forum, has made health activists across the
world apprehensive that the Modi government might be bending to US pressure
to change its patent laws. Several health policy experts and activists have
issued statements urging India not to give in to US pressure and pointing
out that India's IPR policy was compliant with the WTO's trade-related
intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreement as it used health safeguards
available in the agreement to protect the interests of Indian patients as
well as millions of people in other developing countries
*READ ALSO: Will Modi bow to US pressure to modify India's pro-people
patent law?

According to the US-India joint statement, the leaders agreed on the need
to foster innovation in a manner that promoted economic growth and job
creation. "The leaders committed to establish an annual high-level
Intellectual Property (IP) working group with appropriate decision-making
and technical-level meetings as part of the Trade Policy Forum," the joint
statement said.

"The US consistently advances higher intellectual property protections
through its trade working groups and trade partnership groups. It is
significant that this sentence is embedded in the section on economic
growth and increasing foreign direct investment, as US IP industries and
the United State Trade Representative (USTR) promote heightened
intellectual property rights and strengthened enforcement mechanisms as
being key to investor confidence and ultimately to innovation itself,"
pointed out Prof Brook Baker of the Northeastern University School of Law.
He further cautioned that the working group would give the US a dedicated
forum to continue to pressure India to adopt tougher patent protection

"The US, in particular, will work to eliminate local working requirements
that India is seeking to use to promote its own technological development.
The fact that this working group will have 'decision-making' powers is
particularly problematic as it places the US fox in the Indian chicken
coop," said Prof Baker.

"The United States likes to set up formal mechanisms to deliver superpower
pressure on behalf of K Street lobbyists who pay for campaigns by US
politicians. Patient groups in India should indeed be concerned about this
committee. It is very clearly going to be used to pressure India to expand
liberal grants of drug patents in India, and to block or restrain the use
of compulsory licenses on drug patents," said Jamie Love of Knowledge
Ecology International (KEI), an NGO that works on issues related to the
effects of intellectual property on public health and access to medicines.
He also pointed out that President Obama, Vice President Biden, a couple of
Secretaries of Commerce, a Secretary of State (or two) and Michael Froman
at USTR all personally intervened in India following the compulsory license
on Bayer's $65,000 drug for liver and kidney cancer.

In September, commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman had stated
that India would review its positions on intellectual property rights
(IPRs) and that since India does not have an IPR policy the government
would come out with an IPR policy for the first time. Health activists
pointed out that it was not true India had no IPR policy and that the
current Indian IP legal regime represented the policy framework on IPRs
which was adopted after considerable debate inside and outside Parliament.
They expressed concern that India was bending to US pressure on patents.

On the eve of the PM's US visit, civil society groups had demanded that the
Indian government should not carry out any amendment to the Indian Patents
Act to increase patent protection. "We strongly urge the government to
proactively use the flexibilities in the Patents Act such as government use
and compulsory license. In fact, smaller developing countries, with much
less bargaining power, have issued more compulsory licenses than just the
one that India has granted," they had said.

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