Indian prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit United States soon and similar to his US visit of 2014, the US industry and government agencies hope to hear positive developments from the Indian delegation, specifically with regards to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
In US, industries are highly intensive when it comes to IPR whereas the scenario in India is not exactly the same. This becomes crucial in pharmaceutical and healthcare sector wherein affordable healthcare and drug availability take forefront over the interest of pharmaceutical corporations.
Across various forums, Washington has been asserting New Delhi to follow a more stringent IP regime. While Indian courts have been issuing judgments favoring strong enforcement of IPR, the US stakeholders expect India to do much more. Specifically, the US finds Indian copyright law weak when it comes to online piracy and illegal recording of motion pictures. In addition, the provision of compulsory licensing as provided by the Indian Patents Act is highly debatable among US officials who want the same to be used in rare cases. The provision of compulsory licensing was highly debated when Indian patent office allowed compulsory licensing of Bayer‘s Anti-Cancer Drug Sorafenib to NATCO Pharma.
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However, Indian government considers the IPR related laws to be in line with WTO’s (World Trade Organization) agreement on intellectual property rights, i.e. — the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. Indian officials assert that such flexibility is provided under TRIPS and hence, no major overhaul is necessary in Indian IP regime.
Before PM Modi lands in US, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj have already met along with respective high-level delegations for the first India-US strategic and commercial dialogue at the State Department, wherein Mr Kerry noted that the two sides had set a goal of boosting their bilateral trade fivefold to $500 billion in the next five years.
With such huge investments in sight, it is common for US investors to expect strong IP regime with a view to ensure that IP infringement will not hamper their business interest. In contrast, it would not be fully correct to state that there have been no developments in India regarding IPR. Earlier this month, it was widely reported that the Commerce and Industry Ministry is expected to soon approach the Cabinet for its nod for the proposed National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy. However, at that time, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman categorically said that the Cabinet approval of the new policy should not be linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US.
To conclude, it can be aptly said that though no major development regarding Indian IPR regime is expected, PM Modi will definitely reassure the stakeholders in Silicon Valley & New York that Indian government is totally on board when it comes to enforcement of IPR. However, this comes with a caveat that such enforcement is subject to existing laws, which are highly balanced considering the need of affordable and accessible innovations that can reach the masses.
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