US Special 301 Report and a Not So Special Indian Response

Tis that time of the year again! The US once again revels in its rather arrogant and high handed Special 301 mantle by condemning IP regimes that don’t quite look like their own. Pay homage to this years’ 301 report which reads thus for India:

India will remain on the Priority Watch List in 2010. India continues to make gradual progress on efforts to improve its legislative, administrative, and enforcement infrastructure for IPR. India has made incremental improvements on enforcement, and its IP offices continued to pursue promising modernization efforts. Among other steps, the United States is encouraged by the Indian government’s consideration of possible trademark law amendments that would facilitate India’s accession to the Madrid Protocol.

The United States encourages the continuation of efforts to reduce patent application backlogs and streamline patent opposition proceedings. Some industries report improved engagement and commitment from enforcement officials on key enforcement challenges such as optical disc and book piracy. However, concerns remain over India’s inadequate legal framework and ineffective enforcement. Piracy and counterfeiting, including the counterfeiting of medicines, remains widespread and India’s enforcement regime remains ineffective at addressing this problem. Amendments are needed to bring India’s copyright law in line with international standards, including by implementing the provisions of the WIPO Internet Treaties. Additionally, a law designed to address the unauthorized manufacture and distribution of optical discs remains in draft form and should be enacted in the near term.

The United States continues to urge India to improve its IPR regime by providing stronger protection for patents. One concern in this regard is a provision in India’s Patent Law that prohibits patents on certain chemical forms absent a showing of increased efficacy. While the full import of this provision remains unclear, it appears to limit the patentability of potentially beneficial innovations, such as temperature-stable forms of a drug or new means of drug delivery. The United States also encourages India to provide protection against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products. The United States encourages India to improve its criminal enforcement regime by providing for expeditious judicial disposition of IPR infringement cases as well as deterrent sentences, and to change the perception that IPR offenses are low priority crimes. The United States urges India to strengthen its IPR regime and will continue to work with India on these issues in the coming year.”

SpicyIP Competition: India’s Reply

The language this year is of course far more tempered (“we encourage you to remove section 3(d), so that faltu patents by Pfizer can be registered and Indian consumers milked to the hilt…blah blah blah..”) than the denunciatory language of the past.

But frankly speaking, should India even bother responding to this US industry sponsored factually baseless report? After all, India has been ranked number one in a more objective and data driven report by Consumers International.

In case India wishes to reply, what should her reply look like? We welcome thoughts from our readers on this count. In fact, SpicyIP will offer an award to the best entry on this count. Do email this entry to us (sroyonmukherjee [at] or post this in the comments section to this post.

In the meantime, here is a quick draft response for your consideration:

“Dear USA,

India encourages you to mind your own business. We respect your sovereignty to frame IP laws according to your national priorities and suggest that you show us the same courtesy. If your grouse is that we haven’t complied with TRIPS, please feel free to take us to the WTO dispute panel. Our guess is that panel members familiar with the English language will ultimately inform you that section 3(d) is perfectly compatible with TRIPS. And that Article 39.3 does not mandate pharmaceutical data exclusivity, as you suggest!

More importantly, at that point, we might even think of hauling you up before the very same body for rampant violations, including your refusal to grant TRIPS mandated copyright protection to our record companies, despite a WTO ruling (Irish music case) against you.

Yours sincerely,


ps: we thank Rajiv Kumar Choudhry for bringing this year’s report immediately to our attention.

Shamnad Basheer

Shamnad Basheer

Prof (Dr) Shamnad Basheer founded SpicyIP in 2005. He is currently the Honorary Research Chair of IP Law at Nirma University and a visiting professor of law at the National Law School (NLS), Bangalore. He is also the Founder of IDIA, a project to train underprivileged students for admissions to the leading law schools. He served for two years as an expert on the IP global advisory council (GAC) of the World Economic Forum (WEF). In 2015, he received the Infosys Prize in Humanities in 2015 for his work on legal education and on democratising the discourse around intellectual property law and policy. The jury was headed by Nobel laureate, Prof Amartya Sen. Professional History: After graduating from the NLS, Bangalore Professor Basheer joinedAnand and Anand, one of India’s leading IP firms. He went on to head their telecommunication and technology practice and was rated by the IFLR as a leading technology lawyer. He left for the University of Oxford to pursue post-graduate studies, completing the BCL, MPhil and DPhil as a Wellcome Trust scholar. His first academic appointment was at the George Washington University Law School, where he served as the Frank H Marks Visiting Associate Professor of IP Law. He then relocated to India in 2008 to take up the MHRD Chaired Professorship in IP Law at WB NUJS, a leading Indian law school. Prof Basheer has published widely and his articles have won awards, including those instituted by ATRIP and the Stanford Technology Law Review. He is consulted widely by the government, industry, international organisations and civil society on a variety of IP issues. He also serves on several government committees.

One comment.

  1. Avatarmnbvcxzaq1

    hi shamnad,
    long time, no contact? after our last telecon, i thought u wud be sending me the piece for my views thereon.
    on yr current post: the wordings of your draft hypothetical response reflect what a polished gentleman you are. otherwise, had i been proposing it, i wud ve been a lot more terse, especially vis-a-vis the first two sentences of yours (“India encourages you to mind your own business. We respect your sovereignty to frame IP laws according to your national priorities and suggest that you show us the same courtesy.”). but as i said, u r such a nice gentleman! (please dont read anything negative here).
    keep in touch.
    -aditya kant


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