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India ready to discuss patent policies with US lawmakers

India ready to discuss patent policies with US lawmakers

More than 250 US lawmakers have written a series of letters -addressing either the Secretary of State or US President - alleging the trade policies to be discriminatory.

Washington: Asserting that the Indian Patents Act related to pharmaceutical products is not discriminatory against foreign companies, Indian Ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao, offered concerned lawmakers to discuss the issue for the sake of long-term bilateral and strategic partnership between the two countries.

"My senior colleagues at the Embassy stand prepared to come and meet with your key officials or your constituents to engage in a friendly and substantive exchange of views so as to promote deeper understanding, and to seek mutually satisfactory solutions, in a spirit of friendship," Rao said in a letter to the US lawmakers.

Explaining the existing Indian laws and policies to protect intellectual property, Rao wrote the letter to members of the Senate India Caucus and the House of Representative Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans.

The letter dated June 20, comes in response to the series of letters from more than 250 US lawmakers in recent days - from both the members of Senate and the House of Representatives - addressing either the Secretary of State or US President alleging the trade policies to be discriminatory.

"As a member of the Senate India Caucus you have always been a staunch advocate of strong India-US relations and our strategic partnership. We are deeply appreciative of your commitment to further the cause of friendship between our countries," Rao said.

"India has a well-settled, stable and robust intellectual property regime. The three main pillars of this regime are comprehensive laws, detailed rules to back them up, and strong enforcement mechanisms, including for dispute resolution. In
India, the IP framework is rooted in law," she said.

"The full complement of our laws on patents, designs, trademarks and geographical indications is in place and these are in compliance with the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) of WTO. The India Patents Act, specifically, is one of the most comprehensive acts, and is rigorously enforced. The award of patents is a transparent legal process with decisions and processes subject to legal scrutiny," the Indian Ambassador said.

Rao said that that the highest share (20-30 per cent) of all patents granted in India has gone to US nationals and corporations. Of all the patents granted for pharmaceutical inventions between 2005 and 2011, more than 85 per cent were
owned by foreign companies in India, she added.

"There is also much interest in India's use of Compulsory Licensing. It is important to understand the legal and public health context of such licensing. I wish to reaffirm that the provisions of the Compulsory License enshrined in the India Patent Act are in accordance with the provisions of the TRIPs Agreement and the Paris Convention," the Ambassador wrote.

Globally, 15 different countries, developed and developing alike, have issued more than 35 compulsory licenses, Rao said, adding that India has issued only one Compulsory License.

"Through such licensing mechanisms, all Governments balance the rights of the patent holder with their obligations to ensure the validity of patents, availability of the products at a reasonable price, and protection of public health and nutrition. Since its inception, Compulsory Licensing has been an integral part of the patent regime of different countries," she said.

"The provisions for Compulsory Licensing are not meant to hamper the process of innovation but to ensure a fair balance between the interests of innovators and the urgent needs of public health in a country with a population of over one billion," she said.

"I believe we share a common objective of strengthening the India-US Strategic Partnership including importantly, through deepening mutually beneficial trade and commercial engagement. The strategic partnership between our two
countries must be viewed holistically, and on the basis of the enormous stakes that both our countries have in ensuring that the gains and the progress that we have achieved in building a defining relationship for the 21st century are not seen through any prism that sacrifices long-term interests for the short-term," Rao said.

"Both US and Indian businesses and investments in each other's economies would stand only to benefit from taking a long-term strategic view of this relationship. My Government stands prepared to resolve issues that arise in the trade and industry domain between our two countries in a spirit of mutual understanding and friendship, always safeguarding the interests of our long-term bilateral and strategic partnership," wrote the Indian Ambassador.

first published:June 26, 2013, 07:45 IST