Engaging with office of the US trade representative (USTR) or the US International Trade Commission (USITC) on complaints of lack of IP protection has usually been avoided by India, especially at a time when the delegation of the US Patent lobby, Intellectual Property Owner’s Association will be visiting India.
A conference on Intellectual Property protection and enforcement is being co-sponsored by the Government, along with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII). The conference will see participation from corporations and law firms working on IP. It will however have zero representation from civil society and independent academics or researchers on the subject from India.
The agenda of the conference is being claimed to be focused on tightening patent protection and making patent laws stringent beyond the requirements of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) of the Commerce ministry is organizing the two-day conference along with CII from November 20 in Noida.
According to Swaraj Paul Barooah, Editor in Chief of "SpicyIp", an Intellectual property think tank, "There are bound to be questions of Propriety, and conflict of interest raised if representatives of parties of pending and upcoming cases are allowed exclusive meetings with officers who will decide those outcomes. And in the given context of those parties having a history of lobbying heavily against the standing law, as well as the huge impact/blow these decisions can have on the public interest, these questions should not be taken lightly."
Civil Society groups have displayed a lot of cynicism regarding the conference. It should be noted here that CII is also a cosponsor of the IPOA visit. The visit includes meetings with the IPAB, the Delhi High Court and the offices of the Controller of Patents. The agenda also shows a scheduled visit to the Supreme Court of India.
Civil Society groups were quoted as saying, "If the government of India is involved, it is duty bound to make the conference agenda inclusive and to take care on board all the stakeholders, both private and public interests. But the agenda completely excludes not only all the public interest views, but also the view of Indian pharmaceutical business.”
According to Leena Menghaney, a member of the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab (a breast cancer drug), "The conference comes at an extremely sensitive time when so many cases related to IP enforcement against generic competitors are coming up in various high courts in India. It's also a time when India is under tremendous pressure from the US to open up the debate on interpretation of its patent law. Hence it is crucial to have a more balanced debate. You cannot have a discussion on IP without referring to the context of cases being brought against the government in various courts and the pressure from the US. India needs to be very cautious at this juncture.”
The High Courts and in particular the Delhi High Court are handling multiple litigations that demand the balancing of private IP rights with the fundamental rights to life and health enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Many of the members of the IPOA, notably Bristol-Myers Squibb Co, Roche Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co, have cases and appeals pending before the IPAB and the Delhi High Court.
In a letter, addressed to Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, Chief Justice of Delhi G. Rohini and Chairman of Intellectual Property Appellate Board Justice K.N. Basha, the “Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab”, has put forward its concerns regarding the Intellectual Property Association’s scheduled meetings with the IPAB and the Delhi High Court.
It alleged that these meetings are “blatant attempts to influence the judicial outcomes in cases relating to drug patent disputes that are currently before the courts.” The letter says that IPAB will soon be hearing appeals from some IPOA member companies against the rejection of their patent applications by the Indian Patent Office.
“At the end of the day, the stated aim of the IPOA is to function is to promote the case of its member entities, and, is thus no more than a lobbying organization set up by corporate interests to promote their restricted view of intellectual property,” the letters adds.
The letter hence requested the cancelling of any scheduled meetings with the IPOA delegation. Read the LiveLaw story and the letter here.