Economy

India likely to remain under ‘priority watch list’ in US IPR report

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 12, 2018

Trump expected to get tough on countries with ‘weak’ patent regimes

India will continue to be under pressure for having an “ineffectual” intellectual property rights (IPR) and patents regime even under the Donald Trump administration, which is perceived to be India-friendly.

India is likely to remain in the ‘Priority Watch List’ category in the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) annual Special 301 Report.

“It is quite unlikely that India’s position will change this year. Under the new American administration issues such as IPR, patents are going to be significant. It is going strict on those countries that violate IPR laws and not enforce them effectively,” a diplomatic source told BusinessLine requesting anonymity.

On January 4, the Office of the USTR started seeking comments as part of its annual exercise to review the IPR laws of all countries. The Special 301 is likely to be released on April 30.

India has been on the ‘Priority Watch List’ for decades now for having “weak” IPR laws and patent protection. As a result, the USTR had been conducting an out-of-cycle review (OCR) of the country’s IPR regime.

It was under the Obama administration that the Office of the USTR started conducting OCRs in which both American as well as Indian firms and other stakeholders gave their submissions on India’s IPR laws.

In what was seen as “buckling” to US pressure, the Modi-led government rolled out a National IPR Policy in May last year even as it publicly maintained the stance that its policies were in conformity with the World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS Agreement, or Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

“India is not there yet. The National IPR Policy tried to balance yesterday’s protectionist political tendencies with the needs of tomorrow’s dynamic Indian economy. Despite some important markers, the policy was ultimately a placeholder, a sign of things to come.

“For now, both the US Chamber International IP Index and the USTR's Special 301 Report are likely to reflect this ongoing reality,” said Patrick Killbride, Executive Director of the US Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC).

India had been consistently ranking poorly even in the IPR index being done by GIPC.

US President-elect Donald Trump, who will be assuming office on January 20, has made it clear that his primary agenda will be to protect the interests of US companies.

But, while Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s pick for USTR, is widely viewed as friendly towards India, experts think otherwise.

“Trump is going to be hawkish on American interests for larger political gains. The new administration will come down heavily on those countries that have weak IPR and where interests of American firms are not protected. The Special 301 is not going to be lenient on India at all,” said Biswajit Dhar, a trade expert and Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Published on January 11, 2017

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