SpicyIP Tidbits: Will India Become the New Vanguard of the Open Source Movement

1. Knowledge@Wharton, an excellent online business journal from Wharton business school has this very interesting article on how “open source” may help make Indian software companies more competitive. SpicyIP has in several earlier posts wondered why Indian software companies never really made the transition from “services” to “products”. This article advocates that Indian software companies should gear more towards open source, as these are more “service” oriented. And this may help Indian companies gain a competitive edge. Anyway, for full article, see here. It is interestingly titled “Will India become the new vanguard of the open source movement’?
As Mrinalini noted in an earlier post, the new CSIR Director, Dr Samir Brahmachari is a big fan of open source and is planning to push it in relation to drug discovery (particularly in relation to neglected diseases). Going through earlier posts in the blog, I just discovered that one of our earliest posts dealing with the Tamiflu scare (a hype to which I succumbed as well), we did spot this “open source” bug in Dr SKB’s arsenal. Here is the comment:
“The actions of an Indian research institute are exemplary in this regard, where, IGIB, headed by Dr SK Brahmachari used an in-house “gene decipher” software to determine the functions of 3 genes of the SARS virus¾rather than applying for patents, they made these results available via their website, so as to speed up research on a potential SARS vaccine. This generosity was spurred in some part by the fact that the genome of the SARS virus itself was available in a public database. Do we see an open source model being built here? Whatever the case, we need more such commitments in times like this and not a strict insistence on property rights.”
2. Patently O carries an interesting note by Seth Shulman, the author of a patent thriller claiming that Alexander Graham Bell stole the design of telephone (one of the most valuable patents) from his competitor, Elisha Gray. Excerpts below:
“In the course of my research, I unearth a “smoking gun” that leaves little doubt that Bell furtively—and illegally—plagiarized his initial telephone design from his major competitor, Elisha Gray in his quest to secure what would become the most valuable U.S. patent ever issued. It is shown below. The sketch circled at the right appears in Alexander Graham Bell’s notebook on March 8, 1876, two days before his famous success calling to Watson in the next room. The circled inset on the left is a confidential patent filing (then called a caveat) rival inventor Elisha Gray had made at the U.S. Patent Office three weeks earlier. “
3. A news report that notwithstanding the heinous murder of Benazir and the general state of lawlessness in Pakistan, the pharma industry thrives. Some excerpts below:
“Dr. Kaiser Waheed, Chairman Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufactures’ Association (PPMA), in an interview to the Money Plus, said that Pakistan Pharma Industry meets about 90 percent of local requirement of medicines.
The dependence on import has been reduced considerably over the passage of times, thus saving a significant amount of foreign exchange of Pakistan. He said the total 664 pharma concerns, 405 pharma manufacturing units including 31 multinational companies, each manufacturing unit has employees ranging between 100 to 1000 and a conservative estimate of 400 employees per unit makes the figure of 162,000 direct employees. He said the industry in Pakistan has attained its current status by hard working and sophistication by investing in processes and trained manpower.
It has contributed its bit to society by generating employment and enhancing the accessibility of cheaper medicines in the market besides contributing to the exchequer in form of taxes and other levies.
What I found most interesting was Dr Waheed’s comments in relation to the tricky business of how much IP regimes incentivise FDI, something that we had blogged on, in the aftermath of the Novartis dispute. He says:
““We must not sidetrack the real issue that is adverse impact of the proposed data protection provision in the Drug Act. Our next-door neighbour India has never been overtly kind to pharma majors but it is the most preferred destination of foreign investors in the region, he maintained.”
Well said, doctor. The same could be said (and with more emphasis too!!) for your other neighbour, China….
4. Teva pharma plans to invest Rs 4,000 cr in India. See Business Standard Report here. How will this play out in terms of Teva increasing its competitiveness vis a vis our homegrown players, Ranbaxy, CIPLA et al?
5. Pharmabiz reports on the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives’ Associations of India (FMRAI) urging the government to take stringent action against bulk drugs manufacturers in the country for flagrant violation of Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO) promulgated by the central government to control the prices of essential medicines. Some excerpts from the Pharmabiz article:
“In many cases the industry had colluded with the Government machinery to maintain their reckless profit earning”, the FMRAI said. In its efforts to control the prices of essential medicines, the central government had issued Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO) and had fixed prices of certain regulated medicines. National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) was given the responsibility to fix the prices and monitor its compliance. In order to control the prices of formulations, NPPA was given similar task to regulate prices of bulk drug also. But, the industry developed various mechanisms to hoodwink government regulations to hike prices of bulk drugs. Giving an example, the FMRAI said “while producing bulk drug Glipizide, USV Company manipulated price data submitted to the NPPA. Their bulk drug Glipizide cost was Rs.29,744 per kg which was further hiked to Rs.31,584 per kg, when the same medicine was available in the market at Rs. 9,250 per kg. “
We’ve had plenty of posts on pricing earlier–but we think that pricing regulations should apply to both generics and patented products..
6. Pharmabiz reports that Life Sciences informatics major, Bigtec Private Ltd has indigenously designed and developed a hand held point of care Micro Thermal Cycle Diagnostic Platform (MTCDP) to perform Hepatitis B and C tests. The platform is now undergoing clinical validation at the Centre for Liver Research and Diagnostics, Hyderabad. The validation will be complete next month after which the company will release the first prototype for custom manufacture. The company intends to license the technology for production and discussions are on with players in India and abroad. The handheld diagnostic platform is for rapid pathogen detection of any disease and allows DNA amplification.
The product R&D took off under a soft loan grant from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s New Millennium India Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) where a sum of Rs 6 crore was sanctioned for a 3-year-period. This tripartite research programme commenced in January 2006 with Bigtec supported by Indian Institute of Science and Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu.
“Our platform is affordable for both healthcare providers and patients. A real time PCR platform costs Rs 25 lakh and a confirmatory Hepatitis test on PCR costs between Rs 5,000 and Rs 15,000. The Bigtec platform will be made available for approximately Rs 20,000 and a test would work out to only Rs 100,” added Chandrasekhar.
Kudos to the NMITLI for spurring such “low cost” innovations.
7. Pharmabiz reports that most life saving vaccines not stored in right temperature by the trade.
“Pharmaceutical units engaged in the manufacture of vaccines and traders dealing them need to take utmost care in the storage of vaccines as these products may get ruined due to the high atmospheric temperature. The drug companies also need to provide proper training and guidance to the dealers as to how the vaccines should be stored and at what temperature, said Govind Miglani, expert in cold chain logistics and management in a talk with pharmabiz. He said that products like measles vaccine could get inactivated at high temperature and it is difficult to find physical evidence of inactivation. Therefore making visual inspection of these products is an unreliable method of assuring potency.”
We think there is great scope for innovation from Indian companies here. And it becomes important yet again to ask the question. How should we interpret section 3(d) so that we incentivise these kinds of “heat stable” inventions, that are of tremendous value in tropical climes like India.
8. Hal Wegner has released his top ten upcoming cases for 2008 in the US (thanks to Patently O, from which we draw this)
Quanta v. LG – Patent “Exhaustion”
McFarling – Patent “Exhaustion”
Kubin – Biotech Obviousness;
Enzo– Disclosure
Classen v. Biogen – “Metabolite déjà vu”
Convolve v. Seagate – Petition from In re Seagate
Bilski – Patent-Eligibility under § 101
Sanofi-Synthelabo – The Plavix Case
Sang Su Lee II – Post-KSR Motivation
Ferguson – Method of Marketing a Product Barnett – Internet-driven Method
Plenty of jurisprudence that Indian courts can draw from…
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