Column: The US intellectual property rights hypocrisy

May 02 2014, 14:32 IST
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SummaryThe USTR Special 301 report on IP violations singles out India for naming and shaming

turnover of the drug.

The second is the judgment passed last year by the Supreme Court. The apex court struck down the application of Novartis AG for the grant of patent on the anti-cancer drug, Gleevec. The key message the judges conveyed through their ruling is that minor modifications of proprietary products does not qualify for the grant of patent rights. By doing so they endorsed the provisions of section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act. The ruling allowed generic firms to market their version of the medicine at a price 15 times lower than that charged by Novartis, and was hailed as an important step in putting the interests of consumers ahead of the profits of the big pharmaceutical firms.

In its Special 301 report, the USTR had highlighted the use of compulsory licensing system by India, which, as mentioned above, has been used once to curb the excessive rent-seeking on the part of Bayer. The Indian authorities had to intervene in this market since Bayer’s avarice was leaving the patients in India without access to a life-saving drug. It must be pointed out that since 2000, there have been several instances where governments around the world, including that of the US, had to issue compulsory licences to safeguard the interests of the patients. One study shows that between 2000 and 2012, there are 24 cases of compulsory licensing, including the one issued by the US to make the antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, available to the patients in the aftermath of the anthrax outbreak in 2001. India, like the US, has used compulsory licensing provisions only once, but there are several other countries, including Brazil and Thailand who have used this instrument quite frequently, but have not been picked up for “naming and shaming” in the Special 301 report.

Biswajit Dhar

The author is director general, Research and Information System for Developing Countries

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