US 'threats' to Patent Act irks RSS outfit

Updated - August 18, 2016 11:42 am IST

Published - January 23, 2015 06:34 pm IST - Kolkata

Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the economic wing of the RSS, is against any drive to facilitate business interests of the US & the EU’s pharmaceutical companies in India.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the economic wing of the RSS, is against any drive to facilitate business interests of the US & the EU’s pharmaceutical companies in India.

Only days before President Barack Obama’s visit, Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the powerful economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has objected to the United States’ “threats” to India’s domestic policies on Intellectual Property Right (IPR).

The organisation is against any drive to facilitate business interest of the US & the EU’s pharmaceutical companies in India. According to SJM, the “Western world” is building “continuous pressure” on India to amend many sections of the Patent Act of 1970, particularly 3(d), which would qualify global pharmaceutical companies to market new drugs without making any genuine innovation, thus escalating profit. In a strongly worded resolution, the RSS outfit has said that the government “should not compromise” and succumb to pressure.


The GDP growth of US and EU is largely dependent on the knowledge-based economy. While 35% of US GDP growth comes from IPR related industry, 39% of EU’s growth is IPR dependent. So any slow down in IPR growth is a “major concern” for both the blocks, said SJM’s recent resolution titled: ‘The US threat on IPR, a mere hoax?’


In order to achieve the estimated growth in the IPR sector, “a continuous pressure” has been mounted on India by the “western world for tampering with the domestic IPR policies,” the SJM resolution added.


Main concern


SJM and a section of the Bharatiya Janata Party are particularly concerned about dilution of Section 3(d) of the Patent Act of 1970.


Section 3(d) says that “mere discovery of a new form of a known substance which does not result in the enhancement of the known efficacy of that substance” will not be eligible for fresh patents thus restricting the vested business interest of pharmaceutical companies in US and EU in India. In its annual report (2014 Special 301 Report) to underscore trade barriers to US companies due to IPR related laws, the US Trade Representative (USTR) has expressed its concerns about the existence of 3(d).


“The United States is concerned that Section 3(d), as interpreted, may have the effect of limiting the patentability of potentially beneficial innovations. Such innovations would include drugs with fewer side effects…Even after a product receives a patent, Indian law continues to pose challenges to the enjoyment of that IPR protection,” USTR observed last April.


In December, USTR conducted an Out-of-Cycle Review (OCR) of the provisions and issued another statement: “India has made useful commitments in recent months, including to institutionalize high-level engagement on IP issues, to pursue a specific work program and to deepen cooperation and information exchange with the United States on IP-related issues under the US-India Trade Policy Forum.”


The December statement of USTR, followed by the draft National IPR policy, has irked the SJM members. The draft IPR Policy was released only a week after the OCR and concluded that country’s IPR policy will be guided by the “development needs and the international commitments.” The SJM members detested the coinage, “international commitments.”


“We fear that in the name of the international commitments the Patent Act will be tampered,” a senior SJM official told  The Hindu  on condition of anonymity. SJM has also criticized draft IPR policy.


The National IPR policy is drafted “under the shadow” of a joint working group of US and is “influenced by the threats from the US about economic sanctions under the dictates of the big pharmaceutical companies for making changes in the existing patent laws of India,” said the SJM resolution.


Cancer drugs


The SJM has also objected to the policy amendments in “compulsory licensing” especially while granting permission to NATCO for manufacturing cancer drugs which was being sold by BAYER of Germany “at exorbitant prices” in the country. SJM has also red-flagged “illegitimate demand of data exclusivity on pharmaceuticals” whereby the Drug Regulatory Authority of India will be prohibited to disclose trial results to the Indian generic companies.


SJM has also flagged a whole lot of other areas where US is trying to mount “pressure.” The Government “should not compromise on any other existing provisions of Indian Patent Act including pre-grant opposition,” the resolution said. According to the RSS outfit, the government should demand “protection” for products like Darjeeling tea, Basmati rice, textile goods and several other agricultural products which have its origin in India.

TRIPS Agreement

Besides “demand(ing) protection” for biodiversity, traditional knowledge and folklore according to Doha Agenda, the country should “demand a complete review” of the “draconian provisions of the existing Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and renegotiate the same at all appropriate forums of WTO,” the SJM statement said.


In the recently concluded flagship annual IPR summit, Global Intellectual Property Convention (GIPC) in Mumbai, attended by IPR experts of 30 countries, the issue of India’s concern was passionately debated by all sides in several technical sessions. The sub-committee, constituted during GIPC, has noted the concerns of the policy makers and pharmaceutical majors and decided to submit a memorandum to the think-tank drafting National IPR policy.

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