(Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
(Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

IP protection: USTR places India on priority watch list

  • China and India are the leading sources of counterfeit medicines distributed globally, according to the United States Trade Representative's latest Special 301 report
  • India is “one of the world’s most challenging major economies” with respect to protection and enforcement of IP: USTR

New Delhi: The US government has retained India on the “priority watch list" for its alleged poor enforcement of intellectual property (IP) regulations even while it acknowledged steps taken by the Indian government to promote IP protection.

In its latest Special 301 report released by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the US termed India as “one of the world’s most challenging major economies" with respect to protection and enforcement of IP.

India had over the years rejected the observations in the Special 301 report, maintaining that it was a unilateral report of the US government and India was fully compliant with multilateral IP regulations.

The report claimed China and India were the leading sources of counterfeit medicines distributed globally. “While it may not be possible 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 said.

Quoting a 2019 publication produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), USTR said India was among the top five provenance economies for counterfeit goods. “A 2017 report from the OECD and the European Union Intellectual Property Office, ‘Mapping the Real Routes of Trade in Fake Goods,’ revealed India to be a key producer and exporter of counterfeit foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, perfumes and cosmetics, textiles, footwear, electronics and electrical equipment, toys, games, and sporting equipment. The 2017 report also found that 55% of global seizures of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, by total value, originated in India —making it by far the largest producer," it added.

Despite India’s justifications of limiting IP protections as a way to promote access to technologies, the USTR claimed that India maintained extremely high customs duties directed towards IP-intensive products, such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, information communications technology (ICT) products, solar energy equipment, and capital goods.

Noting the progress made by India in the last one year, the report said in early 2019, India acceded to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties and the Nice Agreement. India also issued revised draft legislation to criminalise illicit camcording, currently awaiting Parliament approval.

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