Home >Politics >Policy >Cabinet clears national IPR policy, gives innovation a push

New Delhi: The government on Friday unveiled a National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy to promote the IP regime and to encourage creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in India.

The policy seeks to put in place a legal framework that will encourage the IPR regime and reduce the time taken by the government to approve a trademark to a month by 2017. Currently, the process takes more than a year.

“Our intellectual property laws are WTO (World Trade Organization)-compliant. So there is no immediate plan to amend any Act," finance minister Arun Jaitley said at a media briefing, adding that the policy will focus on commercialization of IPRs as well as their enforcement.

The policy, approved by the cabinet on Thursday, makes the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) the nodal agency for regulating IP rights in the country.

Objectives of the policy include strengthening the legal and legislative framework of IPRs, their commercialization; and reinforcing the enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms for IPR infringements.

India’s first IPR policy comes at a time when developed economies are trying to put in place even stronger IPR frameworks through mega-regional trade agreements.

India’s IPR regime is already in sync with WTO’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), said Jaitley. “ and when global trends move forward, a continuous evolution of these laws will always be required," he added.

India’s strained patent and IP administration has failed to keep pace with growing technological advances. Global pharmaceuticals firms have often complained about India’s price controls and marketing restrictions.

Nirmala Sitharaman, commerce and industry minister, told lawmakers last month that over 237,000 applications were pending in the country’s four patent offices.

The new policy will try to safeguard the interests of rights owners keeping in mind the wider public interest while combating infringements of IPRs.

Jaitley said India would retain the right to issue so-called compulsory licences to its drug firms, under “emergency" conditions, and would not immediately need to change patent laws that were already fully WTO-compliant.

“Compulsory licences are already provided in our patent law. That existing provision will continue," Jaitley said.

Compulsory licences allow a domestic drug manufacturer to produce patented drugs that are not available to the public at a reasonable price.

Last month, the US Trade Representative kept India, China and Russia on its “Priority Watch List" for inadequate improvement in IPR protection.

In 2015, India ranked 29 out of 30 countries in the International IP Index released by the Global Intellectual Property Center of the US Chamber of Commerce. This ranking measures the overall IP environment in a country, and China was ranked 19 in the same list.

The policy document says: “India shall remain committed to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health."

The Doha Declaration is a 2001 WTO text which recognized that IP and patent regimes have to be looked at in the context of burning health issues such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases.

Policy analyst Shalini Bhutani said the policy failed to address a few points of pressure on the IPR front.

“The policy doesn’t secure us against the seed industry and the new generation free trade agreements/bilateral investment treaties which demand higher WTO-plus standards," she said.

Experts welcomed the move to make DIPP the nodal agency on IPRs.

“The most important change that this policy seeks to bring all the patent offices under one roof, that is DIPP, to promote efficient and effective working between various offices," said Yashawant Dev Panwar of the Patent Facilitating Centre at the Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council. “The next major thing is that on an international forum, we want to create system to protect traditional knowledge. This has been referred on several occasions in the policy."

Reuters and Mint’s Nikita Mehta contributed to this story.

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