Sharma urges flexibility in meeting intellectual property commitments

India has called for a binding treaty to protect traditional knowledge at the World Intellectual Property Organisation so that action can be taken by countries against infringement of such rights by others.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, who addressed a high-level policy dialogue at WIPO in Geneva on Monday, made a case for flexibilities for developing countries in meeting their intellectual property commitments to address social challenges.

WIPO is a specialised agency of the United Nations that promotes protection of intellectual property (IP) rights world over through cooperation between countries.

The Minister said that countries of the South, which bear a disproportionate burden of poverty, hunger and disease, give priority to provide affordable healthcare solutions for their citizens. Political leadership is faced with an ethical dilemma and tries to find creative solutions which would strike the right balance, he said.

“It is my belief that while all countries are obligated to honour their international commitments, inherent flexibilities must be provided to developing countries to address these pressing social challenges,” he said.

Sharma maintained that the legislative regime in India which circumscribes the IP rights is a robust one and strikes a balance between the interests of the IP creators and the larger interests of IP users.

“It fosters technological innovation by providing inherent incentives through exclusive private Intellectual Property Rights, but also recognises the need to protect the interest of users’ rights,” said the Minister.

Highlighting India’s initiative of creating a unique digital library of traditional knowledge which has over 250,000 entries specifying the source and the efficacy of each product, Sharma expressed concern about extensive bio-piracy through patents being awarded for traditional knowledge.

“India has been at the forefront for bringing this agenda on the negotiating table and for the last one decade, we have been trying to build a consensus for a binding treaty on traditional knowledge. I hope that WIPO shall be able to bring these negotiations to culmination,” the Minister said.

(This article was published on April 8, 2013)
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