Pharmaceutical producers’ body bats for IPAB

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on March 14, 2021

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Government proposes to abolish IPAB, four other tribunals

The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) has found support from an unexpected quarter even as a proposal is afoot to abolish it.

The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, a platform largely for multinational companies, has approached the Centre to not abolish the IPAB, as intellectual property (IP) is a technical and complex issue that requires a specialist’s understanding, said S Sridhar, OPPI’s newly-elected President.

“We believe that without having specialised benches in at least three or four high courts, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, to abolish IPAB without having specialised judges is probably a step backwards,” Sridhar, who is also Managing Director, Pfizer (India), told BusinessLine.

Last month, a draft Bill to abolish five tribunals, including the IPAB, was introduced in the Lok Sabha. “The government may have its own reasons to abolish IPAB, but we need to have a specialist IP-centric bench because everyone does not understand IP,” he said, pointing out that a judgment backed by sound technical reasoning would stand scrutiny. “Without having that, just abolishing IPAB is probably not the right step,” he added.

Interestingly, the IPAB had played a key role in the watershed IP case involving Novartis’ blood cancer drug Glivec, under the amended Patents Act. It had upheld the rejection of Novartis’ patent application on the drug.

‘More innovation needed’

The OPPI chief explained that it was not just about imported innovative products, but locally generated innovations as well. “We’d like to make sure the environment, procedures etc support innovation because we believe if healthcare in the country needs to get fast-tracked, to have more access.... we need to have more innovation. And make sure that all innovators have their rights protected,“he said.

“We don’t believe that there is a recognition of IP in terms of innovativeness, the post and pre-grant clauses – it takes too much time to get approvals,” he said, also pointing to another OPPI concern, Section 3(d) of the Act.

The IP regime in the country has evolved over years, he agreed. But on the pre-grant (before a patent is given) and post-grant oppositions, he said: “We believe there should be a specific time-frame given for any objection. It can’t be unlimited time,” he said, ïndicating that a year could be given to address objections on the patent application of the innovator. “Otherwise, what happens is everyone objects sequentially so the process gets delayed,” he said. On Section 3 (d), he said: “If the product is accepted in 100 countries, everyone gives a patent only with some understanding.”

The OPPI has also called for a system to address the issue of products similar to an innovative one getting into the market, despite the innovator having a patent. “We are requesting government for a patient information system where, when any company applies for a licence, we come to know about it – and we can take action rather than litigating when the product is in the market...when a patent is given by the government, we need to respect it,” he added.

Published on March 14, 2021

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