In a bid to encourage innovation and improve the common public’s access to services belonging to essential niches such as healthcare, food security and environmental protection, the Government of India has approved a brand new IPR policy. The policy, it is being hoped, will serve to promote entrepreneurship and creativity and will help curb manufacturing and sale of counterfeits.
The policy, which will allow compulsory licensing with restrictions in case of a public health emergency such as epidemics, was announced by Finance minister Arun Jaitley and was received with welcome from various quarters, notably the US Chamber of Commerce, which termed the move as a “precursor” to the “concrete, structural” changes necessary for implementation of a strong innovation model. Commenting on the topic, a senior officer of the Chamber of commerce said,
We welcome the government’s understanding that India’s innovative economy requires effective IP protection and hope this commitment will lead to decisive legal reforms.
While adding that IPR will continue to be a central issue for any discussions between India and the international business community.
Creative India: Innovative India, Says The IPR:
Hints of an innovative new policy had been in the air since last year, when DIPP Secretary Amitabh Kant was quoted as saying that the Indian government would be announcing a “completely new” IPR policy in the next two months that would be “one of the finest” in the world. The policy was delayed from it’s original schedule, but it has finally arrived on the scene to take the theme of a progressive, innovative and developing India forward.
The policy has a tag-line of ‘Creative India: Innovative India’ — reminds one of Start-up India, Stand-up India, doesn’t it? — and calls for updating obsolete intellectual property laws while taking the stakeholder’s convenience and advices into account.
While speaking on the topic, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said,
The aim is to create awareness about economic, social and cultural benefits of IPRs among all sections of society… The policy aims to create and exploit synergies between all forms of IP, statutes concerned and agencies.
The seven objectives of the policy, as per Mr. Jaitley, include IPR awareness, stimulation of generation of IPRs, need for strong and effective laws and strengthening enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms to combat infringements. The policy also plans to promote Research and Development activities through a variety of tax benefits that can be made available under various laws and by a simplification of the procedures required for actually availing these benefits
The FM also responded to concerns raised by the US at certain provisions in the country’s IP laws — For example, as per Section 3(d) of Indian Patent Act 1970, marginal alterations do not entitle a company to a new patent.
Every country is entitled to defend its economic interests…monopolies are loved by those who own them. Ours is a balanced approach, taking into account inventability, innovation and public health.
So basically, while new patents would be granted, old patents would be protected from the danger of someone making very rudimentary changes in them and presenting them as his/her own original idea, as well. However, the FM also said that the patent period could be extended beyond 20 years only if there was a fresh invention and not just a marginal alteration.
An official statement that came along with the policy announcement also emphasized upon the need of a established framework that could safeguard IPRs while also meeting India’s international obligations.
The policy recognizes that India has a well-established TRIPS-compliant legislative, administrative and judicial framework to safeguard IPRs, which meets its international obligations while utilizing the flexibilities provided in the international regime to address its developmental concerns.
Music, Cinema and Industrial Drawing brought under Copyright Law:
Meanwhile, in a brand new and dynamic step, the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) has been declared the the nodal ministry for matters pertaining to music, cinema and industrial drawing,which have been themselves brought under the scope of the copyright law.
As per the policy, the government also needs to regularly take stock of all IP funding by the Centre and consider measures that will let it consolidate with an eye towards scaling up funding, avoiding duplication, enhancing visibility of IP etc.
Taking to twitter to announce the change, DIPP secretary Ramesh Abhishek said,
A IPR cell would be created in every govt dept and state govt to coordinate with DIPP for IPR policy implementation… Approval of national IPR policy will enable coordinated action to foster creativity & innovation and also promote entrepreneurship.
The Indian Cinematography Act, 1952, may also be suitably amended to provide for penal provisions for illegal duplication of films — an practice which causes huge losses to the industry and has become so common that hardly anyone bats an eyelid at the prospect of watching a movie on their laptops, the same day it is released.
While the policy attracted mainly praise on account of its progressive nature, certain people also expressed concerns over its implementation and the situations surrounding, what could be a drastic change in how things have been done. DG Shah, secretary general at Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, said,
Unless the government is ready with funding and programmes to ensure access to medicine for all, any change in the legislative frame work would hurt not only the generic industry, but the people of India.
However, the Finance minister believes that the policy is all that was desired and more, besides being completely fair and impartial.
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.
Meanwhile, assuaging the fears of India bowing before the pressure of developed countries — as governments of developing countries have often been known to do — with regard to its IR regime, an official said,
India will never go beyond its current commitments in TRIPS. Section 3 (d), patent linkage, data exclusivity and compulsory licensing are red lines.
The policy will be reviewed after every five years to keep pace with further developments in the sector.