A committee of secretaries, led by cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, will meet next week to discuss the issues related to India’s intellectual property rights (IPR) and the concerns raised by the US on the same.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of the US threatening to include India in the ‘Priority Foreign Country’ list for IPR of the US Trade Act — a classification given to those that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights or fair and equitable market access to the US persons relying on IPR protection.
“The IPR issues have become an area of concern and the meeting has been called to discuss the special 301 review done by the US,” said a commerce ministry official.
Besides Seth, other officials who would attend the meeting include commerce secretary Rajeev Kher, DIPP secretary Amitabh Kant, health secretary Lov Verma and officials from the ministry of external affairs.
On why the issue was not taken up by the commerce ministry earlier, the official said: “The initiative had to be taken by some department.”
Special 301 is an annual review process led by the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). US trade law requires an annual review of intellectual property protection and market access practices in foreign countries.
India is facing an imminent threat from the US to being downgraded to a ‘priority foreign country’ based on allegations made by PhRMA and other American trade associations attacking India's intellectual property regime, particularly its issuance of a compulsory licence on a Bayer cancer medicine and the adoption of Section 3(d) to the Indian Amended Patents Act and its Supreme Court decision thereunder denying a patent on a Novartis medicine. India has been on the US priority watch list since 1974.
USTR can impose higher duties or restrictions on import of goods and services into the country for a certain period of time if India is tagged as priority foreign country. With US accounting for around 12% of India's exports, this would impact the country's trade balance.
Under the US Trade Act, a priority foreign country is a a tag which is given to the worst offenders of patent rights and intellectual property protection. The only country on the list, currently, is Ukraine. However, India was designated a priority foreign country in 1991. Earlier, the government had instructed its officials not to entertain any request from the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) - a quasi-judicial federal agency - to examine its trade practices.
The US had also raised serious concerns over issuance of a compulsory license (CL) by India to Hyderabad-based Natco Pharma to manufacture and sell cancer-treatment drug Nexavar at a price over 30 times lower than charged by patent-holder Bayer Corporation.