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Saturday, Dec 04, 2004

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`Govt must clarify on Patent Amendment Bill draft'

Jayanta Mallick

Kolkata , Dec. 3

THE Left parties have serious reservations on the draft of the third Patent Amendment Bill of 2003.

Dr Sujan Chakraborty, CPI (M) MP and Chairman of the organising committee of 56th Indian Pharmaceutical Congress, told Business Line here on Friday that the UPA Government was yet to come clean on the draft.

"It needs to pilot the Bill in the current session of Parliament, which ends on December 23, to make the Indian Patent Act, 1970, compatible with the country's WTO obligation before 2005. But the revisions sought by the Left parties and the domestic pharmaceuticals industry have so far not been responded to," he said.

Suggesting that the exercise was bound to affect millions of lives as well as the future of the domestic industry, the CPI (M) Lok Sabha member said that some of key terminologies must be redefined to limit the scope of patentability and leave sufficient space for sovereign policy-making.

"India also needs to prevent filing of frivolous applications for seeking patent rights. Proper definitions also help in assessing the validity of claiming exclusivity and provide maximum flexibility in compulsory licensing," he said.

According to the Left parties, the nomenclatures that need to be "carefully defined" are `invention', `novel invention' and `pharmaceutical substances'.

Dr Chakraborty said developing countries, particularly those that had strong pharmaceuticals and other industries, whose products were subject to product patent, could not afford to depend on foreign sources at monopolistic prices.

"India needs to ensure the availability of the patented products at affordable prices. The Indian pharmaceutical industry has been providing medicines at prices lowest in the world. We must strengthen the domestic industry's role in the product patent regime," he said.

He also mentioned that the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health had given adequate freedom and flexibility to member countries to grant compulsory licences in the pharmaceutical sector and to determine the grounds on which such licences could be granted.

"What we need to do is to use these opportunities to protect our interest. The formulation on compulsory licensing in the new legislation should be couched in as flexible a language as possible. It will be important to retain the freedom to issue licences at least for process patent," Dr Chakraborty said.

He said Article 31(f) of the TRIPS agreement provided that compulsory licences would be "authorised predominantly for the supply to the domestic market" of the country concerned. The word `predominantly' left open a window of opportunities for allowing the licence-holder to produce some quantity of the patented product for exports too.

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