IPR policy on the cards to protect national interests, says Nirmala Sitharaman
Source: The Economic Times
9 Sep 2014
NEW DELHI: India has proposed a national intellectual property rights (IPR) policy to safeguard its interests and bring clarity to existing laws ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US this month.
“We are going to have a national IPR policy in place soon. It will not be restrictive but promote national interest. India has well-established IPR laws, but it is important to spell it out in the form of a policy for the entire world to see,” commerce & industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a briefing to mark the government’s first 100 days.
Developed countries, particularly the US, have been critical of India’s intellectual property laws. The US is threatening to downgrade India’s intellectual property environment in an out-of-cycle review expected shortly. On the other hand, India maintains its laws are consistent with WTO rules.
Sitharaman said the real problem was the absence of a proper framework.
“This is the first time we are coming out with an IPR policy. IPR policy issues have been hanging for quite a long time…India has become a brand in terms of pharma… automobile… We are very strong in IPR and we certainly want to protect our interest… Just because we do not have a policy, they are picking holes in our IPR regime,” she said.
US drug makers have been lobbying hard with their government over taking action against India’s IPR regime, which they regard as lax.
A Special 301 report by the US earlier this year was sharply critical of India’s judicial and subsequent policy interpretation of the controversial Section 3(d) provision in the Indian Patents Act that deals with so-called evergreening of patents and compulsory licensing.
IPR issues are expected to figure on the US agenda during Modi’s visit. According to industry sources, the ‘out-of-cycle review’ may coincide with the PM’s visit beginning September 30. “We are going to talk it out,” said Sitharaman. On the structure of the IPR policy, Sitharaman said, “All laws and rules will come within the framework of the policy. We want to strengthen IPR and upgrade IPR officers.”
The policy is expected to be posted on the website for comments within four months.
Differences over the patents issue widened after India denied a patent to Swiss drugmaker Novartis for its anti-leukaemia drug Glivec, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court last year.
The ministry will soon have a think tank for IPR-related issues. “Experts will keep the government updated about international developments in terms of IPR and advise on various issues,” said department of industrial policy & promotion (DIPP) secretary Amitabh Kant.
The department, part of the commerce ministry, is strengthening intellectual property rights infrastructure by increasing the number of people assigned to such issues.
Meanwhile, speaking about the memorandum of understanding with China for setting up dedicated industrial parks in India, Sitharaman said it was likely to help reduce the wide trade deficit India has with its neighbour.
“China exports so much into India. We have asked them to come and manufacture all that in India to derive benefits in the form of more employment, industrial activity and exports,” she said.
She added that India and China are expecting announcements during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India this month. “We are expecting a lot and they are also expecting a lot,” she said.
In the last three months, Sitharaman has visited China twice and discussed various ways to enhance trade and investment between the countries. India had a trade gap of $39 billion in 2013-14 in favour of China.