Source : The Times of India, 1 May, 2015
India is yet again on the list of countries identified by the US as not giving adequate protection to intellectual property (IP) and which could be subjected to trade pressures. Public health activists have criticized the US report released on Thursday saying that it demonstrated how the US government was willing to use its state power to further the interests of corporate groups, especially the pharmaceutical industry.
India is on the Priority Watch List along with 12 other countries — Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela. “These countries will be the subject of particularly intense bilateral engagement during the coming year,” stated a statement issued by the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office. The USTR office prepares the Special 301 Report every year after evaluating the intellectual property laws of the various countries and issues a list of countries to be targeted to trade pressures over their policies on intellectual property rights.
“Overall the 301 process illustrates how much the Obama administration is willing to serve big corporate rights holder lobby groups. Not as much as the trade associations want but quite a bit more than they should,” 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. KEI statement said that USTR demonstrated once again that US trade policy was controlled by drug company or publisher lobby groups. It added that in a world where sky-rocketing prices for drugs for cancer, hepatitis and other illnesses were driving up healthcare costs and contributing to access barriers, USTR was focusing its efforts on making pharmaceutical companies richer, regardless of the costs or the policy alternatives.
Gopa Kumar of Third World Network, an international network of organizations working on development issues of developing countries, dismissed the whole process of 301 report as “illegal and illegitimate”. “Special 301 report says that if IP protection is not adequate they have the right to impose sanction. That is totally illegal. Who are they in an international scenario to act unilaterally? Policy makers in developing countries should not give any importance to paper tigers like the 301 report. If it’s IP laws are inadequate, they (the US) should file against India under the international trade law of WTO,” said Gopa Kumar.
“India will remain on the Priority Watch List in 2015, but with the full expectation that the new channels for engagement created in the past year will bring about substantive and measurable improvements in India’s IPR regime for the benefit of a broad range of innovative and creative industries,” said the USTR statement. It added that though they were not announcing an out-of-cycle review of India’s IP compliance, they would monitor compliance in the coming months and were “prepared to take further action, if necessary”.
Other than the Priority Watch List, the report placed 24 countries on the Watch List as countries which “also merit bilateral attention to address underlying IPR problems”. These included Barbados, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
The Special 301 report explains how US wants India to change section 3(d) in its patent law, a section meant to protect public health interests, raises objections about compulsory licensing provisions in the Indian law and demands greater levels of IP protection like data exclusivity. The report is mainly targeted at India and China with 10 pages explaining its objections to IP rights protection and enforcement in China and seven pages on India.
According to the USTR statement tens of millions of Americans owe their jobs to intellectual property-intensive industries. “Strong and balanced protection and enforcement of intellectual property are critical for promoting exports of US innovative and creative goods and services, and sustaining those jobs here at home,” it stated.