It is quite curious. Just a week ago, science and technology minister Kapil Sibal acknowledged media and experts’ concerns and promised to review the flaws in a proposed new law. Yet, a cryptic official press release on Friday said the Union cabinet gave its approval to enact that very legislation —the public-funded R&D Bill, popularly known as the Indian Bayh Dole Act after its equally controversial US counterpart.
So, the Bill is set to be tabled in Parliament without the official draft having been released and publicly debated. The sad significance of this stems from two factors. First, it is all about patenting output of research financed by public money. Second, it is strictly geared to exclusive licensing for commercial use of what could be crucial innovations for public health. The scientist will have no say here. So, CSIR would not have the power to repeat past decisions such as not patenting an antimalarial compound that could make a low-priced drug available. As we’ve argued before, this Bill needs to encourage open source and non-exclusive licensing, too. Yes, minister?