By Nayanima Basu, The Hindu BusinessLine | JUNE 27, 2017
India’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and patent law enforcement as well New Delhi’s decision to cap prices of medical devices remained a contentious issue with the US even during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington DC.
“IPR has been flagged as the biggest concern that the US has with India during the trade policy review and during the visit,” said an official requesting anonymity. “The biggest stumbling block is its enforcement. It is a major roadblock when it comes to attracting high-technology transfers from the US, which in turn impacts investments.”
Issues related to IPR and patents were raised by the US trade authorities during a recent review of the Indian trade policy. Consequently, it was escalated at the level of senior officials of the Trump administration during Modi’s visit to Washington, diplomatic sources told BusinessLine.
Although this is not the first time the US has criticised India on its IPR and patents enforcement mechanism, the Trump government has made it one of its topmost priorities and conflated it with the issue of big-ticket investments in India, sources said.
The main difference between the two sides stems from the fact that while the US sees IPR purely from the commercial point of view, India sees it as a development measure. Apparently, during the delegation-level talks, India informed the US that it has taken all necessary measures to strictly enforce laws relating to IPR.
“From the halls of Congress to the Trump administration, US leaders have placed emphasis on ensuring American innovation is respected abroad. In India, that includes strengthening Intellectual Property standards to address issues with patentability, computer-related inventions, and copyright infringement,” said Patrick Kilbride, Vice-President of International Intellectual Property for the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Centre.
Price caps rankle
It appears that the US has also complained about the recent steps taken by the government to impose a price cap on medicines and medical devices. It has also complained to the Indian authorities of the rampant patent violations and capacity deficiencies in effectively implementing laws, sources said.
In fact, just a day before Modi landed in the US, a letter was sent to President Donald Trump by US Congressional trade leaders signed by the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, and House Ways & Means Committee’s Kevin Brady and Richard Neal.
“While increased high-level dialogues between Prime Minister Modi and President Trump and other government agencies are welcome, they must result in concrete reforms that resolve roadblocks fully in order to achieve real market access gains,” said Linda Dempsey, Vice-President for International Economic Affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.