The US on Wednesday refused to designate India a ‘priority foreign country’, the worst label in its annual scorecard on how well countries protect US patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights.
Several US industry bodies had wanted India named the worst offender this year.
India, however, remained on the ‘priority watch list’. It has been on this list for years with nine other countries in the US Trade Representative’s annual ‘Special 301’ report on the global state of IPR protection.
The USTR will, however, conduct an out-of-cycle review for India, as it has done in the past for other countries to address specific IPR concerns, to “engage the new (Indian) government and find a way forward on these issues.”
By not designating India a priority foreign country, experts said, the Obama administration was indicating a willingness to engage with India, especially in light of recent tensions. “This is a minimal requirement for US-India relations to improve going forward,” said Arvind Subramanian of the Petersen Institute of International Economics.
“The good part is this — the non-designation sets up a good basis for engagement… hopefully putting behind recent differences,” government official said in New Delhi.
The US chamber of commerce and a powerful pharma lobby had in recent months mounted an intense campaign against India’s patent regime, demanding it be designated a PFC. Under pressure from this lobby, the US Congress ordered a probe by the US International Trade Commission, which conducted a two-day high-profile public hearing earlier this year.
Though India did not depose before the commission, or the URTR, calling it a sovereignty issue, it fought back with an effective and unprecedented counter-narrative. It worked, preventing a downgrade.
Though the US kept India’s status unchanged from the previous review, critics of India — such as the chamber of commerce —claimed partial victory citing the out-of-cycle review, which will keep alive the threat of punitive measures.