The Obama administration has retained India on the ‘Priority Watch List’ of nations in the U.S. Trade Representative’s ‘Special 301’annual report on global intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes, on the basis that there were “growing concerns with respect to the environment for IPR protection and enforcement in India.”
Arguing that there were “serious questions” regarding the future of the innovation climate in India across multiple sectors, the USTR’s closely-watched report urged India to address concerns such as online piracy and ‘çamcording incidents’ affecting the film industry, to promote predictability in patent laws including the question of section 3(d) of India’s Patent Act and tackle “concerns” stemming from Section 84 of the Act and the Intellectual Property Appellate Board’s support for the grant of compulsory licenses.
Despite enumerating a long list of specific complaints about India’s IPR regime, the USTR also announced that it would conduct “Out-of-Cycle reviews” to promote engagement and progress on IPR challenges identified in the 2014 review of India.
Commenting on the report’s release on Wednesday morning USTR Michael Froman said that the U.S. with more than 30 million Americans owing their jobs to the global health, digital economy, education and entertainment industries, the USTR was “fully committed to unlocking opportunity for those Americans to share their inventions and creations with people all over the world without their work being infringed or misappropriated.”
The Special 301 report however pulled no punches in criticising India’s institutional infrastructure in the context of “significant delays” in the proceedings before the Trademark Registry, “reported difficulty in obtaining remedies and damages,” for trade secret violations actions and “discriminatory… actions and policies… that appear to favour local manufacturing or Indian IP owners in a manner that distorts the competitive landscape.”
The report comes on the back of lingering disputes between India and the U.S. over IP-related matters in a wide range of sectors, including potential referrals to the World Trade Organisation.
It also follows comments by economists such as Arvind Subramanian who argued recently that “there must also be a quid pro quo from the U.S. side on patents,” including for Washington to “acknowledge the positive developments in India related to due process,” and operationalising this by changing “the narrative about India in the U.S. that is currently uniformly negative,” and taking India off the Priority Watch List.