New Delhi: The US government on Friday said India remains one of the world’s “most challenging major economies" with respect to protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) and retained the country under the priority watch list.
In its Special 301 report, 2017, the United States Trade Representative’s office said: Despite positive statements and initiatives upon which the Modi Administration has embarked, the pace of reform has not matched high-level calls to foster innovation and promote creativity. India has yet to take steps to address longstanding patent issues that are affecting innovative industries.
“India has yet to take the final steps to enact anti-camcording legislation, formally establish a copyright royalty board, appoint a functional Intellectual Property Appellate Board, and ensure that collective management organizations are licensed promptly and able to operate effectively," the report said.
India has over the years rejected the observations in the Special 301 report maintaining that it is a unilateral report of the US government and that India is fully compliant with multilateral IP regulations.
On Thursday, India’s commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the country’s intellectual property right (IPR) laws are in compliance with the global rules and any “suspicious narrative" about the credibility of domestic IPR norms “is just not warranted".
The report said right holders continue to report high levels of piracy and counterfeit sales, on the Internet, in physical markets and through commercial broadcasts. “Furthermore, illegal practices that contribute to high piracy rates include the underreporting of cable subscriptions, widespread use of illicit streaming devices, and circumvention of technological protection measures. Finally, the expansive granting of licenses under Chapter VI of the Indian Copyright Act and overly-broad exceptions for certain uses have raised concerns about the strength of copyright protection," it said.
The USTR office said India has not yet joined important international treaties and agreements that could improve aspects of India’s IP regime, such as the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) Internet Treaties and the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks. However, it maintained that India has indicated that it may “examine accession" to some of these agreements in the context of its National IPR Policy.
“In addition, India’s vocal encouragement and propagation of initiatives that promote the erosion of IP around the world, especially in the pharmaceutical sector, sends a concerning signal about India’s commitment to strengthening its IP regime. This also contradicts positive statements made by Prime Minister Modi and high-level initiatives, including the National IPR Policy and Start-up India," it rued.
However, the report also commended India for amending draft Patent Rules to eliminate administrative patent-related incentives “in a manner that better aligns with international best practices".
The US expressed its concern with the “proliferation of counterfeit pharmaceuticals" that are manufactured, sold, and/or distributed in numerous trading partners, including China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Peru, and Russia. “While it is impossible to determine an exact figure, studies have suggested that up to 20% of drugs sold in the Indian market are counterfeit and could represent a serious threat to patient health and safety.," it claimed.
The report also said that India maintains some of the highest tariffs on medicines, pharmaceutical inputs, and medical devices among the World Trade Organisation members. “These tariffs, combined with domestic charges or measures, particularly those that lack transparency or opportunities for meaningful stakeholder engagement or that appear to exempt domestically developed and manufactured medicines, can hinder government efforts to promote increased access to health-care products," it said.
The report also urged India to formulate policies to promote innovation and refrain from “coercive" local content and technology transfer policies, and take account of the increasingly cross-border nature of commercial research and development and technology supply chains, as well as the importance of voluntary and mutually agreed commercial partnerships.