New Delhi: India’s patent laws should be brought on par with global standards to make Asia’s third largest economy a hub for outsourced creative services, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, signalling a major shift in the government’s stand on the intellectual property rights (IPR) regime.
So far, India has maintained that its IPR regime is fully compliant with World Trade Organization rules and resisted pressure from the US and other developed countries to change its patent law.
“If we don’t work towards bringing our intellectual property rights at par with global parameters, then the world will not keep relations with us. If we give confidence to the world on IPR, then we can become a destination globally for their creative work,” Modi said, speaking at the first Global Exhibition on Services (GES), organized by the commerce ministry.
K.M. Gopakumar, a legal researcher with the Third World Network, a non-governmental organization, said there is only one global standard on IPR and that is TRIPS (trade related aspects of intellectual property rights) and India is already compliant with it. “We are definitely not at par with US and EU standards. I hope the prime minister did not mean such standards when he said we have to be at par with global standards,” he added.
Making Indian patent laws compliant with the standards of the developed countries will not bring in any investment to India and will instead make it a destination for exports, which will be against the prime minister’s Make in India initiative, said Gopakumar.
The US has urged India to strengthen its patent regime and has even threatened to downgrade its status for its “poor” record in protecting IPR.
Modi said the government will work towards liberalizing domestic services sectors such as finance and legal services.
“We have made some archaic laws. We should not be afraid of the rest of the world. We have to come out of that mentality. Why do we need to go outside the country for arbitration? Why should it not happen in India? Don’t we have good chartered accountants and lawyers here? Because we have made such laws. Some people think, if we open it up, some intelligent lawyers from outside will come to the country and take away our jobs. That is not going to happen,” Modi said.
Mint first reported on 6 April that the government is contemplating liberalizing legal services, including arbitration, on a reciprocal basis with other countries.
Modi said the government is also working towards financial-sector reforms to make India a hub for international financial activities to compete with financial centres such as Singapore and Mauritius.
The GES is expected to serve as a platform to enhance strategic cooperation and develop synergies between the players of the services sector in India and their global counterparts. India is targeting 10 focus sectors—information technology and telecom; tourism; media and entertainment; healthcare; logistics; professional services, including banking and financial services; education; research and development; space; and small firms in services.
Of the 63 countries participating in the exhibition, 39, including Pakistan, the UK and the US, have set up stalls.
While services contribute 57% of India’s nearly $2 trillion gross domestic product, net services exports were a meagre $73 billion in 2013-14, in which software exports alone accounted for $69 billion. India’s share of the global services trade is 3.2%, while China has 4.6%.