India says US agrees to its stand on IPR

Says bilateral forum, mentioned in Obama-Modi statement, already exists

BS Reporter New Delhi
India on Friday said the US had agreed to its position that differences over intellectual property rights should be resolved through talks. India has been refusing to be subjected to unilateral action proposed by the US under its Special 301 report.

A joint statement issued after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama met in Washington earlier this week talked about setting up an intellectual property working group with appropriate decision making and technical level meetings as part of the Trade Policy Forum between the two countries.

"The US agreeing to discuss IPR issues through the bilateral mechanism of the Trade Policy Forum is in fact a re-affirmation of India's stand that issues need bilateral discussion and not unilateral action," the department of industrial policy and promotion said in an official statement.

However, the department clarified that there already existed the Innovation and Creativity Focus Group in the forum since 2010 to consult not less than twice a year on improving IPR protection. Besides, the group is expected to foster innovation, creativity and collaboration between US and Indian innovators.

The DIPP, a department in the commerce and industry ministry, said the joint statement iterated what had existed in the earlier forum.

It added IPR issues were critical for both countries and India had been repeatedly raising the issue of copyright piracy and misappropriation of traditional knowledge with the US.

The official statement said India had consistently pointed out that its IPR regime was compliant with the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and that any issues had to be discussed in the forum.

The Indo-US joint statement on the IPR issue would only strengthen the bilateral institutional mechanism, the statement added. Earlier this year, the US Trade Representative's much-awaited Annual Special 301 Report had maintained a status quo on India, by keeping it on a "priority watch list" for an allegedly lax IPR regime but refrained from labelling it a "priority foreign country", which might have led to sanctions.

However, the report expressed growing concerns over India's IPR protection and enforcement. The report had said Indian laws and their enforcement would be closely monitored by initiating an "out of cycle" review. India has been on the priority watch list since 1989, when the Special 301 was first released. Special 301 is a trade and industry practices report maintained by the USTR in which the US designates certain countries under two categories, priority foreign country and priority watch list. This is for IPR violators and offenders. The first designation is for the worst offenders that could face trade sanctions. India was earlier designated a priority foreign country in 1994. India has, however, consistently been urging the US to hold bilateral talks to resolve IPR issues, instead of taking unilateral steps. In today's statement as well, the DIPP said, "India has refused to be subjected to unilateral action proposed by the US under the Special 301 report."

US companies, especially pharmaceutical firms, have been pressuring the administration to take strict action against India over its IPR policy.

The US was particularly miffed with the Supreme Court's judgment in April 2013 rejecting the patent application by Swiss company Novartis for its cancer drug, Glivec. Prior to this, American companies were upset when the controller general of patents, designs and trademarks granted a compulsory licence to Natco Pharma to sell a generic version of Bayer-Onyx's cancer drug, Nexavar.

Special 301 is a trade and industry practices report of the USTR that designates certain countries for IPR violations. India does not accept report as it is unilateral
  • India wants US to resolve differences over IPR through bilateral talks
  • But the US had kept India on priority watch list allegedly due to lax regime
  • Tag of priority foreign country might have led to sanctions
  • India was designated a priority foreign country in 1994
  • India-US statement talks of resolving issues by setting up bilateral mechanism under Trade Policy Forum
  • India says mechanism already exists; the US has agreed to bilateral talks to resolve IPR differences, instead of unilateral action

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First Published: Oct 04 2014 | 12:35 AM IST

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