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Compulsory licensing mooted to meet scarcity of Covid vaccines, medicines

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 23, 2021

Panel also urges Centre to undertake a holistic review of IPR policy in India

The Commerce Standing Committee of Parliament has asked the Centre to undertake a holistic review of the intellectual property rights (IPR) policy in the country. The panel also recommended “compulsory licencing” to manufacturers to meet the scarcity of vaccines and medicines during the Covid-19 pandemic, besides suggesting amendments to Indian Patent Act, the Trade Marks Act and the Copyright Act to meet contemporary necessities.

In a report titled ‘Review of Intellectual Property Regime in India’, the panel said re-assessment of the IPR policy is imperative in the wake of new and emerging trends in spheres of innovation and research which requires concrete mechanisms to protect them as IPRs. “The review also acquires salience to identify the existing challenges in the implementation of the policy and the corrective measures that need to be taken for its effective execution,” the panel said in its report tabled in both the Houses of Parliament on Friday. Recommending a holistic review, it said revisiting of policy should help in evolving a robust IPR regime.

‘Wave patent rights’

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the panel said issuing compulsory licenses to manufacturers and individuals for utilising the patents to serve public needs during circumstances of emergency and crisis is significant. The panel said compulsory licencing could be considered in case of production of medicines and vaccines for the treatment of Covid-19. “Generic production in large quantities without any obligation of patents would help in removal of supply constraints in availability of affordable drugs, medicines and vaccines at times of high case load and death toll due to Covid-19,” it noted and asked the Centre to temporarily wave patents rights and issue compulsory licensing to tackle the inadequacy in availability and accessibility of Covid-19 vaccines and drugs.

No of IPRs meagre

The panel said IPRs play a significant role in increasing Foreign Direct Investment. “The Committee is distressed to note that in the year 2019, only 24,936 patents were granted in India which is considerably low as compared to 3,54,430 and 4,52,804 patents granted in the U.S. and China respectively. Also, the rate of increase in number of patents in India in the last four years has not been very impressive compared to that seen in U.S and China,” the report said.

The panel suggested a specific legislation to curb counterfeiting and piracy to restrain the growing menace of such IP crimes in India. It criticised the Centre for the abolition of Intellectual Properties Appellate Body under the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance. It asked the Centre to reconsider such a move in wake of its pivotal role in adjudication of IPR appeals and cases. It said the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) amongst nations is a mutual initiative which helps in creating a conducive environment for promoting and expediting filing of patents.

It asked the Centre to explore opportunities in establishing PPH with other nations. The report said the Section 3(b) of Indian Patent Act, 1970 should be amended so that a provision of a safeguard mechanism is included against the arbitrary exercise of power by the Controller in declining patents. It recommended further categories of classification in the Trademarks Act corroborating to the requirements of industry and trade. Citing the conflict arising between copyright holders and educational institutions due to exceptions contained in Section 52(1) of the Copyright Act, it asked the Centre to facilitate a fair and equitable ecosystem of literary culture in the country by bringing in necessary changes in Section 51(1) of the Act.

Published on July 23, 2021

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