India will not join US’ unilateral IPR law probe

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Ready to discuss US concerns in bilateral forum

India has refused to participate in any unilateral investigation carried out by the US on the country’s intellectual property laws, but is prepared to discuss the matter bilaterally.

“It is the US that has decided to carry out such an investigation, but we don’t have to be a party to it. We are not bound by our commitments at the WTO or bilaterally,” Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher said at a press conference on Thursday.

The office of the US Trade Representative on Wednesday stopped short of blacklisting India as a ‘priority foreign country’ in its ‘Special 301’ report on countries with lax intellectual property regimes. The USTR kept India on the ‘priority watch’ list and said it will carry out an ‘out of cycle’ review of the country’s IP regime when the new government is in place.

Open to discussion

Kher said that though India’s intellectual property regime was fully compliant with WTO rules and the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights regime, it did not mind discussing any concerns that the US may have on the matter.

The Commerce Secretary is to meet the Deputy USTR Wendy Cutler next month to discuss trade issues, including intellectual property, following which there will be a meeting of the Trade Policy Forum — the platform for bilateral trade policy talks.

“I had a conversation with Deputy US Trade Representative Wendy Cutler last evening on the report. I made it clear that India is willing to engage in bilateral conversation and TPF was the best mechanism for this,” he said.

US-based pharmaceutical multinationals have been lobbying hard to get India included in the ‘priority foreign country’ list, which would have led to unilateral trade sanctions against the country.

Compulsory licence

The drug companies are upset with India’s 2012 decision to grant a compulsory licence to an Indian company for manufacturing a copied version of Bayer’s cancer medicine Nexavar; this move brought down prices by 90 per cent. They also want India to drop Section 3(d) of its Patent Act, which does not allow ‘ever-greening’ by refusing patents for incremental innovations.

India says that its position on all the areas of their concerns, which also include the issue of data exclusivity and patent linkages, was well evolved, legally sound and complied with WTO norms.

Kher said that India was not apprehensive about the ‘out of cycle’ reviews as it had not broken any law. “It appears to be a wise decision on the part of the US not to hasten to get into a decision which would have adversely affected bilateral trade relationship and a larger economic engagement between the two countries, particularly at a time when we are at a stage of political transition,” he said.

The US was India’s third largest trading partner in 2012-13 accounting for exports worth $36 billion and imports of $25 billion.

(This article was published on May 1, 2014)
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