SpicyIP Tidbits

1. Who’s really winning the IP race in India?

Joff Wild, of Intellectual Asset Magazine, comments on the patent explosion in India, and who appear to be the actual beneficiaries of the policy changes in Indian IP …

Worryingly for India, perhaps, is the fact that 80% of applications come from foreign companies… It seems to me that if India is to realise its huge potential, and the undoubted creativity of its population, a lot more work needs to be done in educating businesses and other organisations on the benefits of intellectual property protection…

No-one doubts that there is an extraordinary pool of talent in India, but if you have a situation in which over 25,000 of the 30,000 patent applications the Indian patent office received over the last 12 months were from foreign entities, then there is also little doubt that a lot of Indian innovation is going unprotected.

However, there is the proverbial silver lining: the pharma sector.
The one bright light, however, could be the pharmaceutical sector… [T]he country’s generic powerhouses – which certainly do understand the importance of sophisticated patenting strategies – are now spending more on R&D. It will be interesting to see where this money goes: to find treatments for diseases that are rife in India; or to develop products for the lucrative European and North American markets.

2. CIPLA, Lawyers Collective to contest Roche patent

The Chennai patent office at Chennai is headed for more controversy over a patent granted to an anti-HIV drug made by Swiss drug maker F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd, with Indian firm Cipla and Lawyers Collective planning to challenge this, Mint reports.

This time, the drug involved is Roche’s anti-HIV one, valganciclovir…. [T]he Chennai patent office granted a patent to the drug without hearing groups opposed to this—the first time such a thing was done. Lawyers Collective, a Mumbai-based NGO is moving the Madras high court against the patent office’s decision. And domestic drug maker Cipla Ltd plans to challenge the patent by filing a post-grant opposition.

… Lawyers Collective had filed a pre-grant opposition to the valganciclovir patent application of Roche in 2006 on the ground that the drug was a pre-1995 molecule. Drugs patented elsewhere 10 years before the Indian Patents Act of 2005, are not eligible for patent protection in India.

On the basis of that provision, Cipla is developing a copy of valganciclovir, which… “is expected to get a marketing approval from the drug controller shortly and …be available in the market by early 2008.”

3. Pfizer granted patent for important HIV therapy in India

Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge (I-MAK) reports that Pfizer’s Maraviroc has been granted a patent in India in June 2007.

Interestingly, the corresponding application at the European Patent Office (EPO), published as EP 1140085, is still under examination because of objections raised by the Office. The outstanding objections against EP1140085 are that the application does not sufficiently describe the invention, does not solve the problem claimed and lacks inventive step in the light of prior art. It would be useful to compare the examination report of the Bombay Patent Office…with the EPO’s, but alas s144 of the Indian Patents Act does not allow the reports of examiners to be made public, a policy that must change sooner than later.

… Approved by the FDA in August 2007, Maraviroc, also known by the brand name Selzentry ( or Celsentri outside of the U.S) is being positioned as an important salvage therapy for patients that are not responding to other HIV drugs.

4. Call to boycott Novartis products

The Hindu reports
The Janaarogya Andolana Karnataka has urged medical doctors and consumers to boycott all products manufactured by the Swiss based multinational company, Novartis, till the company withdraws its case before the Intellectual Property Appellate Board seeking patent for Gleevec, a drug used to treat chronic myeloid leukaemia.

This boycott seems to be getting popular, as Mint suggests, with four state bodies of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) having passed a resolution to boycott Novartis’ products.

This is particularly interesting in context of an earlier SpicyIP post by Shamnad Basheer, where it was suggested that the Novartis case should be allowed to run its course, if only to clarify and strengthen the standards for interpreting terms in the revamped Indian IP laws:

What credibility would we have left as a country if we introduce terms such as “efficacy”, not known to any other patent regime, and then expect interested stakeholders to desist from taking up the issue before courts in the hope of gaining some clarity on how such terms are to be interpreted?

Several obvious questions come to mind: will the boycott gain ground? If yes, what are the odds that it will actually manage to reduce the prescription of Novartis drugs in India? And how will the pharma major react?

5. Negroponte’s dream project in troubled waters… again

MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, which wants to deliver USD100 laptops to the developing world, has been accused of stealing the design for its ‘multilingual keyboard’.

A US-based Nigerian-owned outfit called Lagos Analysis Corporation (LANCOR) claims the non-profit reversed engineered its Shift2 keyboard driver source codes, reports this website.

The ‘four shift key’ keyboard helps the computer handle multiple languages, Times Online reports: The company… owns a patent on the design in Nigeria, and reportedly wants the Federal Court in Lagos to award it “substantial damages”, and to issue an injunction which would permanently prevent the OLPC from manufacturing and selling its machine, which is called the XO.

At around the same time, the Nigerian education minister told the BBC
“What is the sense of introducing One Laptop per Child when they don’t have seats to sit down and learn; when they don’t have uniforms to go to school in, where they don’t have facilities?”

The India-connection is also interesting: we seem to have had some sort of a love-hate relationship with the OLPC project. Last year, India virtually rejected the OLPC project, with strong disapproval from Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee, who called it “pedagogically suspect”, suggesting that investment was better directed at improving secondary education.

However, last week, ET reported that the OLPC Foundation, in collaboration with Reliance Communications, did a pilot project with a school in Khairat village in Raigadh, Maharashtra last month. Currently, 60 XO laptops, as these low-cost laptops are known, are deployed in India.

This development is even more interesting in context of earlier reports suggesting that India’s Human Resource Development Ministry was cognizant of, and interested in supporting, at least two ‘home-made’ designs for much cheaper laptops, looking to price them at an estimated jaw-dropping USD10!

Surely, this is going to be an interesting case to follow.

6. Need for an IPR Bench, says Madras HC Chief Justice Shah

In view of the increasing number and complexity of Intellectual Property Rights litigations, there is a need for a special bench, comprising judges who have particular expertise in the subject, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court A.P. Shah said at a conference in Chennai recently.

Thanks to Vijay Ramakrishnan for dropping us a line about this report:
[I]n most High Courts, IPR matters were not given preference. It was necessary to develop an IPR Bench in the High Court with judges familiar with IPR law.

“It is my desire that any interim application [in an IPR litigation] should not last more than six months, and the appeal arising out of it should also be decided within six months. An IPR litigation should come to an end within a year. Unless this time frame is observed, rights of the people will be completely lost,” he [said].

At the same conference, Justice S. Jagadeesan, former chairman of the IPR Appellate Tribunal, said procedural difficulties in the administration of IPR had led to heavy backlog, and stressed the need for a better-equipped patent application process.

Is anyone listening?

7. CTRI, Guntur gets patent for tobacco medicine

Medindia reports The Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) based in Guntur in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has bagged the patent rights for for ‘solansole’ (a medicine extracted from tobacco for use in the manufacture of cancer and cardiac drugs).

As ever, the Chinese aren’t far behind: Nanjing Huaguan Development Of Biotechnology Co is into the export of solanesol, described in its promotional material as a key medical intermediate in the synthesis of cardiac drugs,anti-ulcer drugs and anti-cancer drugs.

India, which is the third largest tobacco producer, will surely like to maximize on this grant, and develop alternative uses of the crop.

8. Endnote: !ndia Incredible no longer?

The Ministry of Tourism has no title for its magazine named after its Incredible India campaign, as Brand India’s flagship logo has already been registered by a private publishing house. The ministry has filed a complaint against Durga Das Publications with the Registrar of Newspapers for India.

HT reports,
In September, the publishing house officials arrived with a copy of their magazine still called Incredible India, without the exclamation mark replacing the letter I in India. Director of the publication Sanjeet countered “We had registered the magazine’s name in 2002, even before the ministry thought of bringing out a magazine. The name belongs to us.”

The decision of the Registrar of Newspapers is awaited.


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3 thoughts on “SpicyIP Tidbits”

  1. from the time of justice rajagopal aiyyangar’s report which stressed the need for domestic R&D’s advantage ,need and recommendeded a suitable patent regime to suit that need till date India/India Inc have not invested in R&D as do their counterparts else where. therefore it is no wonder that patent applications mirror that.not withstanding the “silver lining” we are decades behind the rest of world and the reasons behind them are social /political and administrative.

  2. Your comments are entirely valid, Ravi. The “silver lining” observation was based on Joff Wild’s report. Re R&D, it is indeed true that India Inc’s (whatever that might be) investment patterns have to adapt to the global scenario, if it is to be considered a competitive entity in any regard.

  3. Dear Sumathi,

    Regarding your post concerning the granting of the valganciclovir patent, we ran a couple of posts (see links below) on the earlier version of this story in September by Livemint. Would be interested to hear thoughts on this.




    Tahir (www.i-mak.org)

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