Brushing aside concerns of the US on India’s IPR regime, the government said on Friday its intellectual property rights laws are legal-equitable and WTO-compliant.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley made it unequivocally clear that one must encourage invention of life-saving drugs and at the same time “we must also be conscious of the need to make it available at a reasonable cost so that drug cost does not become prohibited as has become in some parts of the world”.
“We do believe that the balancing act which India has struck is responsible for life-saving drugs available at a reasonable cost in India compared to the rest of the world. So, our model seems to be both legal, equitable and WTO-compliant,” Jaitley said.
Jaitley was responding to a query on US’ concerns over India’s IPR regime and the country being on the priority watch list in the US Special 301 report.
India continues to feature in the watch list based on US assessment of Indian IPR protection as “inadequate”.
Observing that every country is entitled to defend its economic interest, the minister quipped: “Monopolies are loved by those who own monopolies. They are the only one who own them.”
Defending India’s stand, Jaitley said availability of medicines at reasonable cost is necessary, adding that the patent period beyond 20 years can be extended only if there is a fresh invention and not a marginal alteration.
“So, ours is a very balanced approach which I said balances it with consideration of inventability, innovation and public health consideration,” Jaitley emphasised.
The developed countries have raised questions about section 3 (d) of the Indian Patent Act 1970 and compulsory licensing (CL), saying the norms restrict innovation.
The section does not allow patent to be granted to inventions involving new forms of a known substance unless it differs significantly in properties with regard to efficacy.
“... marginal alterations which are of not significant medicinal value do not entitle you to a new patent. Only a significant change will entitle to the patent,” Jaitley added.
“I now understand that a large number of countries world over have followed the section 3 (d) principle. Obviously, there are some pharma companies which are not very comfortable with this and they keep raising this, but I think India’s position is reasonable.”
On compulsory licensing, the minister said it is already provided in the patent law and “therefore that existing provision will continue”.