New Delhi: The government strongly objected to the US placing India on a priority watch list in its latest trade representative’s report, which raises concerns over the country’s enforcement of intellectual property rights.
In a letter to the US trade representative Ron Kirk, commerce minister Anand Sharma termed the move “unilateral, unfortunate and unjustified”.
Anand Sharma (File Photo). Photo by Ankit Agrawal
India has a stable intellectual property regime fully compliant with trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) and a strong enforcement mechanism, Sharma wrote in the letter, which Mint has reviewed.
In the US trade representative’s Special 301 report published last week, it urged India to continue to work to streamline its patent opposition proceedings. “The US will closely monitor developments concerning compulsory licensing of patents in India following the broad interpretation of Indian law in a recent decision by the Controller General of Patents, while also bearing in mind the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health,” it said.
Trade between India and the US has soured in the recent times with both the countries taking each other to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to fight out differences in policies.
The US approached the WTO seeking a consultation with India after the country in March banned imports of the US poultry. India followed this with seeking a consultation with the US over import duties levied on Indian steel products. India also said it will take the US to WTO against what it calls a discriminatory visa fee regime against Indian information technology firms. Consultations at the WTO is the first step towards resolving a disagreement before entering into a full-fledged legal dispute. Both sides have already postponed twice the crucial eighth round of US-India trade policy forum talks.
In March, India’s Controller General of Patents passed an order allowing Hyderabad-based Natco Pharma Ltd to manufacture and market a copy of Bayer AG’s liver and kidney cancer drug Nexavar—the first time an Indian firm was granted a so-called compulsory licence, which permits a generic drug producer to make and sell its version of a patented drug without the consent of the patent holder. The US raised concerns over the development holding that this may weaken the global patent regime under TRIPs.
“The world is eagerly watching India and if we give in now it will only lead to recolonization. The Indian government is favouring Indian drug makers, but if we succumb to US pressures, we will go back to the 1970s—when we had to depend on other countries for life-saving drugs,” said Chinu Srinivasan, public health activist and managing trustee of the non-governmental organisation Low Cost Standard Therapeutics.
“This is a battle between Indian companies and global giants. In any case, it is disheartening to note that people or public health does not figure in this debate and (the focus) remains purely on trade,” he added.
Sharma said India was found to be compliant with all WTO regulations in a recent review of the country’s trade policy at WTO. India’s intellectual property regime has seen many steps in the recent times to improve efficiency and transparency and measures have been taken to accede to the Madrid Protocol, he added.
The Madrid Protocol is an international treaty adopted in 1989 enabling owners of trademark applications and registrations to extend their rights to dozens of other member countries. Also, “legal developments in the copyright field are at an advanced stage and are awaiting the required parliamentary approvals,” Sharma said.
A US report in December identified Nehru Place in New Delhi as among the 30 most notorious IT markets of the world dealing in goods and services that infringe intellectual property rights.
Sharma assured the US trade representative that the intellectual property regime in India will continue to be responsive to the country’s needs, especially on public health issues, within the parameters of flexibilities available under TRIPS.
“The application of law will be equal across residents of all countries including India,” he said.