[Ip-health] Civil Society Joint Statement on the Occasion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Visit to US

K.M. Gopakumar kumargopakm at gmail.com
Mon Jun 6 11:22:38 PDT 2016

Civil Society Joint Statement on the Occasion of Prime Minister Narendra
Modi’s Visit to US

*1st June 2016*

We understand that intellectual property rights (IPRs) would be a priority
topic of discussion during Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to the United
States of America (USA). During the past two decades or so, the issue of
IPRs has become a key tool for managing competition in the name of
promoting innovation and a knowledge economy.

The Policy sees the generation of IPRs as an end itself. However, in
reality, promotion of IPRs has not only limited the ability of developing
countries obtain critical technologies for their economic and social
development, but has also seriously impacted their peoples’ lives by making
essential goods such as medicines, seeds, and textbooks unaffordable. In
other words, IPRs have not allowed the citizens in the developing world to
enjoy fully the fruits of scientific progress and its applications.  Ever
since the WTO TRIPS Agreement has been implemented, protection and
enforcement of IPRs has compromised the ability of developing countries
like India to fulfil the human rights obligations guaranteed under the
international human rights treaties and their respective constitutions.  The
Policy deliberately makes statements that make it appear it balanced on
first blush but the real intent is evident by the fact that it specifically
mention a review of laws. Considering the pending RCEP negotiations this is
opening the doors for changes as demanded by the MNC and their states, US,
Japan and the EU.

The Policy is divorced from the socio economic stage of India’s development
and the role it plays internationally, India has used the flexibilities
available within the TRIPS Agreement to minimise the damage arising from
its implementation. This has been true especially while the provisions
relating to patents and plant variety protection have been implemented.
While in case of the former, India gave space to the generic industries to
function and to provide cheap medicines, the Indian Parliament in 2001
passed a unique law for plant varieties’ protection that recognises
farmers’ rights to protect their varieties and to re-use seeds that they
have bought from the commercial plant breeder. These laws have played an
important role in preventing the IP monopoly from adversely affecting
people’s lives and livelihoods. India cannot compromise on TRIPS
flexibilities; it must continue to use CLs and other (price) controls
for better access to medicines, seeds, etc.

Many developing countries like the Philippines, Brazil and South Africa
have also emulated or are trying to emulate India’s examples of
safeguarding public interest while amending their intellectual property
(IP) laws.

We are concerned that the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy
adopted by the Cabinet ignores India’s experience of implementing a regime
of  IP protection that balances the rights of the IP holders and public
interest, by proposing an “IP maximalist” agenda. This approach also
ignores the wealth of empirical evidence that points to the limitations
imposed by the IP regime on the innovation systems. The thrust of this
policy is to unleash a one-sided pro-IP campaign that speaks of generating
intellectual property rights and their effective enforcement, and turns a
blind-eye to the fact that such a regime would compromise public interest.
This IP maximalist agenda in the policy fully ignores the socio-economic
needs of people of this country and serving the profit motives of Trans
National Corporations (TNCs) that own an overwhelming majority of the
world’s IP. We urge the government to reconsider this anti-people policy.

We understand the primary intent of the policy is to respond to the
aggressive demands of United States government, backed by the corporate
interests especially the pharmaceutical companies, to amend India’s IP laws
that include several safeguards to protect the public interest. The
government of India should remain committed to the welfare of its people’s
interest and should not succumb to the pressures that it is being subjected
to.  Above all, the government must fulfil its obligation to protect the
rights of the citizens that have been guaranteed by the constitution, in
particular, right to health, right to education, and right to food.

In light of the above, we urge the Prime Minister:

·      To reconsider the implementation of the National IPR Policy and send
the policy back to the drawing board

·      To withstand the pressure from the US government and corporations
and to defend the people’s interests

·      To reject any demand to either initiate negotiation on free trade
agreements and/or bilateral investment treaty with the United States or
joining Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

·      To ensure transparency and accountability in its engagements with
United States on IP issues by tabling a White Paper in the Parliament.


Forum Against FTAs

Lawyers Collective

All Indian Drug Action Network

Initiative for Health & Equity in Society

Third World Network

National Working Group on Patent Laws

Gene Campaign

New Trade Union Initiative


Software Freedom Law Centre

Centre for Internet and Society

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