The government announced a new intellectual property rights policy (IPR) on Friday which will speed up the online registration of patents and trademarks but resisted pressure from the US and other Western countries to amend the country's patent laws to give more leeway to multinational pharmaceutical companies.

The policy aims to spread awareness among the public about trademarks, copyrights, and patents to promote innovation within the country, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley told the media here.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, global drug brands led by US companies have been pushing for changes to India's intellectual property rules. These MNCs have often complained about India's price controls and marketing restrictions. Observing that every country is entitled to defend its economic interest, Jaitley said, "Monopolies are loved by those who own monopolies."

The policy will try to safeguard interests of rights owners with the wider public interest while combating infringement of intellectual property rights, Jaitley added. Besides, the registration process for trademarks will be reduced to one month by 2017. Last month, the US trade representative kept India, China, and Russia on its 'Priority Watch List' for inadequate improvement in IPR protection. However, Jaitley said that India would retain the right to issue compulsory licenses to its drug firms under "emergency" conditions and would not immediately need to change patent laws that are already fully compliant with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The finance minister said, "One must encourage the invention of life-saving drugs and at the same time we must also be conscious of the need to make them available at a reasonable cost so that drug cost does not become prohibitive as has become in some parts of the world. We do believe that the balancing act which India has struck is responsible for life-saving drugs available at a reasonable cost in India compared to the rest of the world. So, our model seems to be both legal, equitable and WTO-compliant."

Defending India's stand, Jaitley said that availability of medicines at the reasonable cost is necessary adding that the patent period beyond 20 years can be extended only if there is a fresh invention and not a marginal alteration.

"So, ours is a very balanced approach, which I said balances it with consideration of innovation and public health consideration," he emphasized.

Developed countries have raised questions about Section 3 (d) of the Indian Patent Act, 1970, and compulsory licensing saying the norms restrict innovation. The section does not allow the patent to be granted to inventions involving new forms of a known substance unless it differs significantly in properties with regard to efficacy. "... marginal alterations which are of non-significant medicinal value do not entitle you to a new patent. Only a significant change will entitle to the patent," Jaitley said.


Last modified on Monday, 14 August 2017 07:10
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