No pharma company is taking up patent issues with the WTO as they are looking to sort out the issue through treaties, says Kewal Handa, Former MD of Pfizer.
The Cabinet today gave its nod to the national Intellectual Property Right (IPR) policy, saying it endeavours to ring in a “Creative India; Innovative India”.
Through this policy, the government aims to lay the roadmap for intellectual property (IP) in the country, recognise innovative energies, exploit synergies between all forms of IP, create awareness on benefits of IP, and enhance access to healthcare, food security and environmental protection, among others.
The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) will be the nodal department to co-ordinate, guide and oversee implementation and future development of IPR’s in India.
Two key highlights of the policy states there will be no changes to compulsory licences issued to pharma companies. There will also be no amendments to evergreening of patents. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley anouncing the news said that IPR laws are World Trade Organisation (WTO)-compliant.
Kewal Handa, Former MD of Pfizer, said that some of the pharma companies have already adjusted to the new reality.
Evergreening of patent right is a method allegedly adopted by innovators having patent rights over products to renew them by bringing in some minor changes.
But some companies are struggling with the evergreening law, he said, adding that in total the IPR is a good policy.
"No company is taking up patent issues with the WTO as they are looking to sort out the issue through treaties," he said, adding that US companies particularly have a problem with patents here.
GP Srivastava, Chief Advisor, Assocham, welcomed the move by the government. He said making IPR come under the DIPP is a good move.
Vaidheesh of GSK Pharma said it is a well-articulated policy. He said fundamentally it is a big shift. "The only issue is how the policy is going ot be implemented."
Rajeshwari Hariharan of Rajeshwari & Associates said the government may want to consider ways to promote innovation for new users in future. But she said the policy lays down a framework for a utility model that exists in other countries.
The Great Diwali Discount!
Below is the transcript of Kewal Handa and GP Srivastava's interview with CNBC-TV18's Shereen Bhan.
Q: The government says that India's position whether it is on the issue of compulsory licences or on the issue of Section 3(d) - the controversial Section involving the evergreening of patents, India's firm position continues there. How would you react? This has clearly been a bone of contention specifically has far as US and European companies are concerned?
Handa: These are the two issues where the European and the US companies are not happy with. It has been almost now about more than about 7-8 years of the patent life and some of these companies have adjusted to the reality and some of them are still struggling with it.
The government has very categorical and it says that it is compliant with the minimum Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and if there are any disputes it should be taken by the company directly with World Trade Organization (WTO). So, all that priority watch list and all the fear that was there, I think the government has passed through that and had boldly stated that it is compliant with TRIPS.
Q: The government has been saying we have been compliant with TRIPS even before this IPR policy was put into place. That has been the government's contention that whether it is Section 3(d) or its compulsory licence, India was not violating the TRIPS agreement and even on the issue of compulsory licensing the fears have been exaggerated because as India has rightfully said we have only issued one compulsory licence so far. So aren’t the fears overblown?
Handa: To some extent if you see the conduct of the government, they have granted patents. There is only one compulsory licence which has been given. No country has taken the government to WTO dispute. That clearly shows that everybody is trying to muscle through negotiations or treaties rather than going through WTO.
Q: Let me ask you on the whole there are 7 pillars that are driving this IPR policy but what is it really means because now as far as the copyright laws are concerned, the nodal ministry will be the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and not the HRD ministry, trademark registration from 2017 will come down to about one month time period. On the basis of what you have seen the policy say for IP commercialisation, for nurturing R&D, how would you assess the impact?
Srivastava: In fact, I welcome this move first bringing it under DIPP because that’s important nodal agency which should handle it number one, number two is that all these 7 pillars which were very much needed in present scenario when we are dealing global business and keeping our interest that start-ups and all these things, I very strong feel it’s a very good move.
Q: Because IT and of course pharma is going to be the big sectors that will be looking at the fine print very closely. The government has left the window open for legislative change, in fact, in the policy on page 14 of that 28 page policy the government very clearly says that it could in future amend the law if it’s necessary post stakeholder consultation. So does this leave the room open you believe for any kind of change to take on board the concerns that have been raised by the US administration, by the Europeans?
Handa: The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has been raising this issue and the US government also has the concern on this, some of the companies in US have grave concern on this. What government is doing two things it’s saying that depending upon how the negotiation goes we will look at the IPR policy, but more important the government is also saying that as the IPR regime get evolve in this country and if we are ready for that probably that’s the time we will review the policy.
Unlock 75% more savings this festive season. Get Moneycontrol Pro for a year for Rs 289 only.
Coupon code: DIWALI. Offer valid till 10th November, 2019 .