India is yet to reformulate a national policy on intellectual property rights (IPRs), though this had been expected to be announced early this year.
A draft policy was issued in November 2014 for stakeholder comment. A second round of consultations concluded in February. The document had come under a lot of attack from both domestic and international business.
The department of industrial policy and promotion is learnt to have finalised a policy but it is yet to be approved by the Cabinet, officials told Business Standard.
Experts and lobby groups are apprehensive on whether their views have been taken on board. Some domestic critics felt the draft policy was heavily tilted towards the demands of developed countries, such as the US.
However, international lobby groups suggested the draft policy lacked adequate teeth to protect the interest of a patent holder. There was questioning from both sides on compliance with the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement under the World Trade Organization.
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said India should work towards a robust intellectual property rights regime, matching global standards.
"The draft policy was inadequate in finding a balance between market access and trade. The draft also failed to address the concerns on compulsory licensing with regard to pharmaceuticals. There have to be specialised courts to hear intellectual property-related cases, which was also not discussed in the draft policy," said Bipul Chatterjee, deputy executive director, CUTS International, a consumer rights lobby.
The draft policy spoke at length on using IP for incentivising research and rewarding innovation, without laying adequate provisions on how a stronger intellectual property regime can contribute in attracting greater foreign direct investment.
India's intellectual property rights regime has also come under severe criticism from developed countries for exercising certain flexibilities like compulsory licensing. The draft policy was silent on the issue. But that had not appeased global pharmaceutical firms. The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), representing the former in India, said it had "concerns" on the IPR regime.
"If we don't work towards bringing our intellectual property rights at par with global parameters, then the world will not keep relations with us. If we give confidence to the world on intellectual property rights, then we can become a destination globally for their creative work," said Ranjana Stemacek, director-general, OPPI.
According a SPAG Asia survey of Indian companies, the latter feel a stronger IP regime and its effective implementation is needed. As many as 67 per cent of the respondents in the survey said India lacked a sound IP policy.
"The pharma sector in particular has raised the intellectual property platform to a new level of global debate. intellectual property contributes significantly for research and commercialisation strategies that enable protection of inventions or innovations from competitive forces. It also provides a first mover advantage in many cases," said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson, Biocon, in the survey.
The Office of the US Trade Representative had in its annual 'Special 301 Report' rapped India's IP regime. Last year, it conducted an out-of-cycle review of Indian IP and patent laws. The report for 2015 is expected to be out on May 1.