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Trump administration keeps India on IPR list

The US has said it will continue to keep India on a list of countries it monitors closely for intellectual property rights deficiencies, chiefly in the pharmaceutical and software industries.

world Updated: Apr 28, 2017 22:25 IST
Yashwant Raj
US President Donald Trump walks to Marine One prior to departing from the White House in Washington on April 28, 2017, as he travels to Atlanta, Georgia.
US President Donald Trump walks to Marine One prior to departing from the White House in Washington on April 28, 2017, as he travels to Atlanta, Georgia. (AFP)

The United States said on Friday it will continue to keep India on a list of countries it monitors closely for intellectual property rights deficiencies, chiefly in the pharmaceutical and software industries, a longstanding issue between the two countries.

Though it noted the issuance of India’s National IPR policy, the US administration said it “largely avoids a discussion of specific legal and policy issues that the United States and other stakeholders had suggested that the Modi government address”.

The US Trade Representative’s annual Special 301 report released on Friday, the first under President Donald Trump, named India and China among 11 countries on the “priority watch  list”, a category monitored but not subjected to retaliatory action.

It said the report reflected the new administration’s “resolve…to call out foreign countries and expose the laws, policies, and practices that fail to provide adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement for US” companies.

This annual exercise is a unilateral US action mandated by Congress, under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, to monitor trading parter countries and identify those that erect trade barriers for American companies.

The US has been mounting pressure on India in recent years — and nearly named it to the worst-violator category of “priority foreign country” in 2014, which would have led to sanctions — specially over pharmaceutical and software IP issues.

The new report said India will remain on the “priority watch list” for lack of sufficient measurable improvements to its IP framework on longstanding and new challenges that have negatively affected US right holders over the past year”.

It added: “Despite positive statements and initiatives upon which the Modi administration has embarked, the pace of reform has not matched high-level calls to foster innovation and promote creativity.”

The report said longstanding challenges “include those which make it difficult for innovators to receive and maintain patents in India, particularly for pharmaceuticals and software, enforcement action and policies that are insufficient to curb the problem, copyright policies that do not properly incentivise the creation and commercialisation of content, and an outdated and insufficient trade secrets legal framework”.

While India has acknowledged the need to step up IP issues relating to the software industry and the need to strengthen enforcement, it differs radically with the US on the issue of patents in the pharmaceutical sector.

Specially regarding Section 3(d) of the India Patents Act, under which it grants patents only to what it considers as genuine inventions and innovations and not incremental advancement, the US and drugs manufacturers have been wanting it to.

India has taken the lead on this issue and has emerged as something of a frontline nation in keeping drug prices affordable, and that, experts have said, is the real worry for the drugs and pharmaceutical industry of the US and beyond.

Among new issues, the report said were “draft policies that negatively affect the commercialisation of biotechnology, and the positions that India supports and voices in multilateral forum on IP issues, continue to generate skepticism about whether India is serious about pursuing pro-innovation”.