E-DRUG: Has PM bowed to US pressure on patent laws?
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Has PM Modi bowed to US pressure on patent laws?
TIMES OF INDIA, 3rd October 2014
A paragraph buried in the US-India joint statement, which
talks of establishing an annual high-level Intellectual Property (IP) working
group as part of the Trade Policy Forum, has made health activists across the
world apprehensive that the Modi government might be bending to US pressure to
change its patent laws. Several health policy experts and activists have issued
statements urging India not to give in to US pressure and pointing out that
India's IPR policy was compliant with the WTO's trade-related intellectual
property rights (TRIPS) agreement as it used health safeguards available in the
agreement to protect the interests of Indian patients as well as millions of
people in other developing countries.
According to the US-India joint statement, the leaders
agreed on the need to foster innovation in a manner that promoted economic
growth and job creation. "The leaders committed to establish an annual
high-level Intellectual Property (IP) working group with appropriate
decision-making and technical-level meetings as part of the Trade Policy
Forum," the joint statement said.
"The US consistently advances higher intellectual property protections
through its trade working groups and trade partnership groups. It is
significant that this sentence is embedded in the section on economic growth
and increasing foreign direct investment, as US IP industries and the United
State Trade Representative (USTR) promote heightened intellectual property
rights and strengthened enforcement mechanisms as being key to investor
confidence and ultimately to innovation itself," pointed out Prof Brook
Baker of the Northeastern University School of Law. He further cautioned that
the working group would give the US a dedicated forum to continue to pressure
India to adopt tougher patent protection measures.
"The US, in particular, will work to eliminate local working requirements
that India is seeking to use to promote its own technological development. The
fact that this working group will have 'decision-making' powers is particularly
problematic as it places the US fox in the Indian chicken coop," said Prof
"The United States likes to set up formal mechanisms to deliver superpower
pressure on behalf of K Street lobbyists who pay for campaigns by US
politicians. Patient groups in India should indeed be concerned about this
committee. It is very clearly going to be used to pressure India to expand
liberal grants of drug patents in India, and to block or restrain the use of
compulsory licenses on drug patents," said Jamie Love of Knowledge Ecology
International (KEI), an NGO that works on issues related to the effects of
intellectual property on public health and access to medicines. He also pointed
out that President Obama, Vice President Biden, a couple of Secretaries of
Commerce, a Secretary of State (or two) and Michael Froman at USTR all
personally intervened in India following the compulsory license on Bayer's
$65,000 drug for liver and kidney cancer.
In September, commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman had stated that
India would review its positions on intellectual property rights (IPRs) and
that since India does not have an IPR policy the government would come out with
an IPR policy for the first time. Health activists pointed out that it was not
true India had no IPR policy and that the current Indian IP legal regime
represented the policy framework on IPRs which was adopted after considerable
debate inside and outside Parliament. They expressed concern that India was
bending to US pressure on patents.
On the eve of the PM's US visit, civil society groups had demanded that the
Indian government should not carry out any amendment to the Indian Patents Act
to increase patent protection. "We strongly urge the government to
proactively use the flexibilities in the Patents Act such as government use and
compulsory license. In fact, smaller developing countries, with much less
bargaining power, have issued more compulsory licenses than just the one that
India has granted," they had said.
Dr Gopal Dabade,
Dharwad 580 002
Dr Gopal Dabade <email@example.com>