Opinion

India’s IPR environment is maturing

Ajay Batra | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on May 22, 2015

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Legal systems are in place, landmark judgments have been pronounced, and next-gen policies are being evolved



The establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at the conclusion of the Uruguay Round (UR) on negotiations in 1995 signalled a quantum leap in integrating developing countries with the global economies. Developing countries undertook greater commitments lured by additional market access in agriculture, textiles and the movement of people.

In a well researched report by RIS India , the gains from the UR proposals were estimated to be between $213-$510 billion a year, with developing countries benefiting to the tune of $86-$122 billion. Empirical evidence suggests that there has been a significant deviation of these income flows to the developing world in favour of the developed world.

Works in progress

The Indian intellectual property rights system represents one of the most mature IP systems amongst developing countries, although some of the studies rank it below China, which is often accused of thefts, counterfeiting, piracy and cyber attacks on IPRs. Successive Indian governments have put in efforts to improve IP legislation since 2000. Jurisprudence has consistently evolved, institutions like the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) have been established, and landmark judgments by the judiciary have been given in the past few years. In recent times, key efforts have been made by the PMO to revisit the IP regime and a task force has been set up to evolve a next generation IP policy for our nation.

There have been acrimonious noises made by US industry against Indian IP legislation and its interpretation by the government and judiciary. Criticism of certain provisions in the Patent Act that renders evergreening of patents ineligible for grant has generated considerable heat. Similarly, lack of IP enforcement, a non-responsive legal system, lack of awareness and compulsory licensing have all come under fire.

On the ground, it appears to be a lot of work in progress. Significant policy changes in recent years by successive governments have been responsible for the evolution of IP legislation in our country. Indian pharmaceutical companies have become globally competitive in the generics market.

Not only are Indian companies competitive, the drugs produced by these companies have pharmacologically better characteristics and quality. Some of these domestic companies are also entering into licensing agreements with global players such as Sanofi, Forest Laboratories, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, and Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca in the R&D space. Over 50 NCEs/NMEs from Indian companies are at different stages of development for new drugs. This marks the entrance of Indian pharma companies in drug discovery; an innovation cycle that may be fraught with difficulties but is equally rewarding of success.

On copyright

In the case of the entertainment and IT industry, the recent involvement of the HRD ministry with industry associations such as Ficci, BSA and MPA are providing copyright enforcement training to police officers and its governing officials. To deepen awareness on copyrights, the ministry is in the process of finalising the inclusion of IPR as a compulsory subject in K-12 education. These are likely to see much anticipated reduction in unlicensed software and piracy of music and films.

There have been pioneering judgments that decisively deal with digital TM violations, meta tagging and parallel imports, making our legal environment more responsive and intolerant towards IP abuse. The decision of grant of interim royalty payouts by the Delhi High Court in the Ericsson vs Micromax case is a turning point in the “no damage cover” regime prevalent in India.

In the engineering and manufacturing sectors, IP capability and process maturity appear to be the binding-glue that will allow OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) transfer critical IPRs to Indian companies without fear. These ingredients must find a place in training each skilled worker in this exercise of nation-building. It is recommended that each set of National Occupational Standards must aim to create workers who are knowledgeable, innovative, skilled and IP centric.

India’s openness to re-examine its IPR laws and policies, and establish a think-tank and an empowered group on IPR reflects serious intentions of her transforming attitude towards IPRs.

The writer is the CEO of World Intellectual Property Rights Bank

Published on May 22, 2015
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