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Academics, activists come to India’s aid as patents face US lens

india Updated: Feb 10, 2014 11:32 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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Academics and activists in the US are coming to India’s defense as its trade and patent regimes come under intense scrutiny and criticism here beginning with a public hearing this week.

Non-profit organisations such as Public Citizen and Doctors without Borders and some academics said that India’s trade and intellectual property rights practices are in complete compliance with global rules. India must be defended as people across the developing world depend on it for access to affordable generic medicines, they added.

“Whatever effect India’s policies may have on profits (of) multinational companies, including those headquartered in the US, India’s recent enactment and implementation of its patent law (are) fully in accord with the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS),” said academics Brook Baker, Srividhya Ragavan and Sean Flynn in a joint submission to the US Trade Representative (USTR), asking to be allowed to testify at its hearing in support of India’s patent regime.

The USTR hearing, on February 24, is part of its annual review of IPR rules and practices impacting US businesses worldwide. The office releases a Special 301 report at the end of the process.

The US chamber of commerce, the country’s most powerful business lobby, has asked the USTR to designate India a “Priority Foreign Country”, a classification for worst offenders, marking it for retaliatory action.

The hearing later this week — on Wednesday and Thursday — has been called by the US International Trade Commission in pursuance of a congress-mandated probe into Indian trade “barriers”.

Rag avan and F lynn are already listed to testify before the commission, as is Peter Mayburdak of Public Citizen, an NGO that campaigns for easy access to medicine globally.

“Recently, some pharmaceutical industry groups have criticised India’s patent rules and practices. But India’s practice complies with the WTO’s agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights,,” said Mayburdak in a submission to the USTR, asking to be invited to testify.

Mayburdak and the academics, who have also applied to testify before the USTR, told HT they were not arguing either on behalf of the Indian government or the India pharmaceutical industry.

“We support WTO-compliant policies that can advance global health,” Mayburdak said, adding, “India, clearly, has an essential role to play in this regard, and should not be deterred by such a silly exercise as 301.”

Doctors without Borders is also listed to testify before the commission. It couldn’t be reached for comments.

These people will join DG Shah of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, Ron Somers of the US-India Business Council, Gerry Rao for Nasscom, and Pallavi Shroff for CII, who are also likely to testify.