[Ip-health] What is brewing between India and the US on IPR?

Shailly Gupta shailly.gupta at geneva.msf.org
Tue Feb 3 21:14:35 PST 2015



On January 27, 2015, even as Air Force One readies for take-off, bringing US
President Barack Obama's three-day visit to India to an end, two seemingly
contradictory events occur - one  in India and the other in the US - giving
reasons to believe that something is brewing between the two countries on
the issue of intellectual property rights. Equally important, if not more,
were there signs of a lack of transparency from the Indian side?
Consider this. On January 27, after meeting US Secretary of Commerce Penny
Pritzker, Commerce and Industry Minister
art-cities/1/215077.html> Nirmala Sitharaman tells the media that the US was
invited to comment on the draft National IPR Policy and India would "then
see what we can do with it".



Around the same time, miles away in the US, Michael Froman, the US Trade
Representative (USTR), is testifying at a Congressional hearing. He says
that the USTR has been able to "secure commitments from India in the 2014
Trade Policy Forum on a broad range of IP issues of concerns to the United
States and its stakeholders". He goes on to say: "I believe we have a good
dialogue going with the new government on this issue and we are committed to
working to achieve concrete progress in this area."


Video clips and other news reports on this testimony available on the
Internet show Froman responding to a question from Senator Orrin Hatch, the
Chairman of Senate Finance Committee. Froman addresses his concerns on the
IP scenario in India: "Less than two weeks ago, India's patent office
refused to grant a patent on an important drug that treats hepatitis C.
Their rationale is based on a patentability standard that is out of step
with the rest of the world and which many believe is inconsistent with
India's obligations under the World Trade Organization." (
<http://www.c-span.org/video/?323992-1/hearing-trade-policy> c-span.org).
This is significant because the think tank set up by the Centre on the new
Indian IPR policy, which has been put out to seek public comments, maintains
that India has "robust intellectual property (IP) laws and a strong IP
It is apparent that something is brewing on the IPR front from the nature of
apprehensions being raised.


For example,  former UN Special Rapporteur Anand Grover's mailer, shared by
an IPR expert with Business Today, says: "From inside sources it appears
that Prime Minister Modi is very keen to assure US President Barack Obama
and the US multinational companies (MNCs) that India will agree to the
changes proposed by them. Inside sources also reveal that two issues likely
to be worked upon are 'Data Exclusivity' and 'Patent Linkage'."


The mailer goes on to say: "Both Patent Linkage and Data Exclusivity delay
the entry of generic medicines, thus allowing monopolistic pricing to thrive
even if this means that patients across the world are denied access to
affordable medicines. If Prime Minister Modi succeeds in bringing about
these two measures he would only be emboldened to dismantle the very core of
the Indian IP regime, which is what the US IP industry wants."
It is not just in India, concerns are being raised internationally as well.
For instance, a letter written to the US President by global health
activists (
15.pdf> Infojustice.org) points to "proposals for a bilateral investment
treaty with India". It states: "The current US model bilateral investment
treaty contains provisions that would empower disgruntled pharmaceutical
corporations to bypass domestic courts and directly seek binding arbitration
before international extrajudicial tribunals authorised to order taxpayer
compensation for future profits if their expectations are frustrated by
government policies or decisions."
As is apparent, much of this debate would be set to rest, only if the Indian
government were a bit more open on the exact position of the dialogue with
the US and where it stands.




Shailly Gupta

Deputy Head

MSF Access Campaign (India)

AISF Building, First Floor

Lajpat Nagar IV

New Delhi - 110024

Ph: +91-9899976108 

Skype : shailly.17 



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