India, Brazil, China team up to push EU to change trademark law

Amiti Sen | | Updated on: Jan 20, 2018


Five nations complain that the bloc’s rule could lead to confiscation of drugs

Failing to convince the EU to change its new directive on trademark protection that could lead to seizure of legitimate pharmaceutical consignments transiting through the region, India has teamed up with Brazil, South Africa, China and Indonesia at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to put pressure on the bloc to make amendments.

“The five said they were concerned the new directive could result in possible restrictions on legitimate shipments of goods, in particular essential medicines, while transiting the EU,” an official privy to a recent meeting of the TRIPS Council of the WTO told BusinessLine .

New Delhi also emphasised that the new law violated various provisions of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement of the WTO.

In particular, the countries are worried about the stringent enforcement provisions in the new trademark legislation implemented by the EU on March 23 that could allow EU member state customs authorities to confiscate goods while in transit without sufficient evidence of trademark violation.

“As things stand right now, pharmaceutical consignments can be confiscated if these contain items with brand names or logos similar to those registered as trademarks by other companies in the 28-member bloc,” the official said.

EU version

The EU, however, responded by saying there were specific provisions written into the trademark directive to prevent any undue detention of pharmaceutical shipments in transit.

The EU representative added that the bloc had no idea where the notion came from that the directive gives authority to national customs agents to seize shipments in transit without evidence of illegal acts.

India and the four others said that their concerns stemmed from the seizure by Dutch customs authorities in 2008 of several shipments of generic medicines originating from India and bound for Colombia, Peru, Nigeria and Brazil.

Mutual dialogue

Both India and Brazil had filed cases against the EU at the WTO on the matter, following which the issue was settled through mutual dialogue.

New Delhi fears that the new law could be a fresh attempt to crack down on cheap generics (copied versions of off-patent medicines) from India on way to markets in Latin America and Africa as large pharmaceutical companies, many of them based in the EU, feel threatened by the country’s cheap but high-quality medicines.

India’s exports of generics could rise from $15.4 billion in 2014-15 to an estimated $40 billion by 2020, as per industry estimates as a number of medicines will go off-patent over the next few years.

Published on June 16, 2016
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