Civil society groups urge govt not to dilute IP laws

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on February 23, 2020 Published on February 24, 2020

The CSO, in a letter to Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, have raised concerns over the possibility of a deal on IP rights   -  Olivier Le Moal

Reports suggest a possible ‘knowledge exchange’ between India and the US in terms of training Indian IP officials



Civil society organisations are taking no chances with the US President Donald Trump’s visit to India, even though, in his own words, the “big deal” is being saved for later.

A clutch of civil society organisations (CSO) have written to Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal raising concerns over the possibility of a deal of some sort on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

“India’s IP laws, especially the Patents Act, Copyrights Act and Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, contain robust public interest safeguards against the abuse of IP monopolies,” the letter said, urging the Government to reject any demand to directly change laws or indirectly impact the implementation of the public interest provisions. The CSOs also called for details of any such deal to be made public before formalising it.

‘Knowledge exchange’

The CSOs joint submission was in response to reports suggesting a possible ‘knowledge exchange’ between India and the US in terms of training Indian IP officials.

“This is a matter of serious concern because the US has been pressing India to make changes in its IP legislations through the annual United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 reports and is also interested in getting Indian IP management officials to opt for a stronger IP regime,” the CSOs said.

“The US is trying to use indirect methods such as training Indian patent examiners to dissuade them from implementing the public health safeguards in Indian patent law,” alleged the letter signed by the All India Drug Action Network, National Working Group on Patent Laws and WTO, Campaign for Access to Medicines and Devices-India, Third World Network (India) and the Drug Action Forum, Karnataka (DAF-K).

“We apprehend that trainings of Indian patent examiners as were part of the MoU in 2006, could be a factor behind the poor or non-implementation of the strict standards of patentability in the patent law. Some recent studies show that despite anti-evergreening provisions, Section 3 of the Patents Act, the Indian Patent Office granted a large number of patents on minor modifications of existing medicines as against novel and inventive chemical entities,” the letter said.

“One study showed that 72 per cent of patents granted on pharmaceuticals are on marginal improvements on existing drugs. This is indicative of an alarming trend of granting low-quality patents that enable evergreening,” the letter said, cautioning against the harmonisation of the Indian Patents Act with the US Patent Act.

Model law

“The provisions in the Patents Act are considered as model law for other countries because these provisions curb the patenting of known molecules and provide effective remedies to prevent abuse of a patent monopoly through compulsory licensing,” the CSOs said, adding that these public health provisions were crucial in ensuring affordable generic medicines to people.

Explaining the concern over a strong IP regime favouring the patent holder, the letter said, it could extend the protection period by establishing a linkage between patent and drug registration procedures; expand the scope of protectable subject matter through IP officials implementing a liberal interpretation and granting approval for broader IP protection; and it could facilitate enforcement and expedite litigation to block local inventors and innovators from commercialising their products within domestic markets.

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Published on February 24, 2020
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