Source: Times of India
18 Nov 2014
NEW DELHI: The government of India claims to seek balance of public and private interests in intellectual property rights. Yet, the government is co-sponsoring a conference on intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement along with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) dominated by speakers and participants from corporations and law firms working on IP, with zero representation from civil society and independent academics or researchers on the subject from India.
The government’s association with such a one-sided conference leaving out academia and civil society organisations who work on the impact of intellectual property on areas of public interest such as access to medicines, knowledge and technology has drawn howls of protest from civil society organisations. The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) of the Commerce ministry is organizing the two-day conference along with CII from November 20 in Noida.
“If the government of India is involved, it is duty bound to make the conference agenda inclusive and to take care on board all the stakeholders, both private and public interests. But the agenda completely excludes not only all the public interest views, but also the view of Indian pharmaceutical business,” pointed out civil society groups.
The agenda of the conference seems to be focused on tightening patent protection and making patent laws stringent beyond the requirements of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). “The conference comes at an extremely sensitive time when so many cases related to IP enforcement against generic competitors are coming up in various high courts in India. It’s also a time when India is under tremendous pressure from the US to open up the debate on interpretation of its patent law. Hence it is crucial to have a more balanced debate. You cannot have a discussion on IP without referring to the context of cases being brought against the government in various courts and the pressure from the US. India needs to be very cautious at this juncture,” said Leena Menghaney a member of the Campaign for Affordable Transtuzumab (a breast cancer drug).
The agenda states clearly that the participants will get a chance to meet speakers from DIPP, controller general of patents, trademark and design and customs commissioners. Thus it seems to be a platform for US government and US corporations to lobby with Indian policy makers and pressurize them. Pratibha Singh, member of the recently constituted IP think tank is chairing one of the sessions in the conference on role of customs and police in IP enforcement. The IP think tank of the commerce ministry has the mandate to draft a national IPR policy and to “identify areas in the IPR requiring studies to be conducted” and recommend necessary changes in the administrative, legal and legislative fields.
India’s position has been to not officially engage with office of the US trade representative (USTR) or the US International Trade Commission (USITC) on complaints of lack of IP protection. Yet, the Indian government is sponsoring or paying to provide a platform for greater IP protection and enforcement advocacy by the US Government and its corporations. This has raised questions about whether India is bowing to US pressure.
Civil Society groups have expressed skepticism over the timing of the conference coinciding with the visit of the US patent lobby, Intellectual Property Owner’s Association’s delegation to India from November 16-21.
Interestingly, CII is also a cosponsor of the IPOA visit. The IPOA delegation’s agenda included visits to Intellectual Property Offices (IPO) in Chennai and Delhi, Intellectual Property Appellate Tribunal (IPAB) and High Court of Delhi. Health activists had written to the chief justice of both the Supreme Court and the high court and IPAB appealing that the visits be cancelled citing serious conflict of interest. Many of these visits have since been cancelled in light of the protests from civil society citing serious conflict of interest in allowing the delegation access to the higher judiciary and Indian officials.