The Government of India has told American authorities that it will not cooperate with the out-of-cycle review (OCR) initiated by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) as part of the latter’s annual ‘Special 301 Report’, on India's supposedly slack intellectual property rights (IPR) regime.
New Delhi says it believes what the USTR is doing is unilateral and it is not “obliged” to participate or cooperate in the OCR process. However, it is geared to cooperate with the Indo-US bilateral dialogue mechanisms.
“India will engage with the US on IPR issues under the US-India IP working group that was recently formed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited US. Apart from that, we are not ready to cooperate on anything else on this issue,” said a top official, who requested anonymity.
The official also said India was coming out with a comprehensive IPR Policy, which would “settle the matter” forever.
The length of the OCR depends from country to country. The process starts with the USTR publishing in the Federal Register a request for the public to give its comments. It is generally open-ended and anyone can give comments — the American public and companies or anyone else.
Once all the comments are collated within a stipulated time, which in this case is October 31, it will be sent to the relevant government (India, in the present case) for reactions. A month is given to respond.
With India refusing, the US has plans to take up the matter strongly under the high-level IP working group, which will begin during the next India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF), slated to take place here next month.
“The Indian government has stated that it will not participate in the process and not provide any input. We are waiting to have the meeting of the high-level working group (on IPR) and then talk to the Indian government on OCR, as this is a major engagement,” a USTR official involved in OCRs told Business Standard from Washington.
The official said the length of the OCR had not yet been determined, although it was not expected to be lengthy and “certainly not a permanent process”.
Under the Special 301 Report, issued this year on June 30, India continues to be kept on the ‘Priority Watch List’ (PWL) for being one of the worst IP offenders, according to American standards. As a result, USTR had decided to carry out an OCR to “engage more deeply” with India on IPR and patent laws, which it believes are not up to the mark.
India, on the other hand, has maintained that it is in compliance with the global IPR norms under the World Trade Organization’s agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights.
The USTR began conducting an OCR of India from Tuesday, in an effort to “redouble” its engagement with the country on IP issues related to all sectors, especially concerning access to affordable medicines.
India has been in the ‘priority watch list’ since 1989, when Special 301 was first issued by the USTR. However, this is the first time the US authorities are conducting an OCR of India’s IP and patent laws.