RSS economic wing seeks public debate on proposed IP policy

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on April 09, 2015

A call for a public debate on the draft National Intellectual Property policy has come from the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The proposed IP (intellectual property) policy does not reflect the needs of the people as its approach is “maximisation of the patent,” Ashwani Mahajan, SJM’s national co-convenor told Business Line, referring to the draft’s cautious approach to using flexibilities available to the country under international trade agreements.

“We ask for a simple thing, no dilution of (Section) 3(d), pre-grant opposition and compulsory licensing,” he said, adding that the Government should not give in to the demand for data exclusivity as well, in the interest of public health. These provisions are part of the Indian Patents Act and have played a role in blocking frivolous patenting of medicines or in ensuring they are made affordable.

In seeking the protection of these provisions, the SJM echoes the apprehensions of pro-health groups and domestic drug industry representatives who are concerned whether the new IP policy would water-down the existing Patents Act.

In a letter to Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the SJM further points out that the proposed IP policy seems to contradict existing policies that seek to promote local manufacturing. “The policy prescriptions in the Draft IPR Policy would contradict with these policies and even hamper the “Make in India “ initiative by building (a) wall on technology transfer by stressing on IP protection and enforcement,” the SJM said, taking the battle to the core of the BJP-led government’s latest mantra.

Honour local needs

Provisions like section 3 (d) of the Indian Patents Act work as “an article of safety for the Indian people and public health,” says Mahajan, defending the contentious feature that disallows patent protection on incremental research unless it proves greater therapeutic efficacy.

A compulsory license allows a third party to make a less expensive version of a patent protected drug, on the payment of royalty and a pre-grant opposition allows interested parties to contest a patent application before the Patent Controller decides on granting a patent. These outlined features in the Patents Act do not find much favour with multinational companies (MNCs).

“We are not against MNCs per se, but they must honour the medical needs and requirements of the Indian people,” he said, adding that just a fraction of the local population can afford critical medicines.

Recent developments

It is after a long drawn out battle that SJM along with other organizations succeeded in partially protecting the needs of the people in the amended Patents Act, Mahajan says, recalling the fight to keep Section 3(d).

But two recent developments -- the Indo-US joint working group and the setting up of a think tank towards formulating the new IP policy – have triggered a fresh round of IP-related apprehension.

For instance, there is conflict of interest in the members appointed to the think tank and it needs to be reconstituted with academics and researchers working on the subject for long, says Mahajan.

On SJM’s representation on the draft IP policy finding common ground with representatives at the other end of the political spectrum, Mahajan counters, “Whosoever is with us – we are not averse to any political party of any colour.”

Published on April 09, 2015

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