India finally publishes a list of International Non-proprietary Names (INNs) for pharma-trademarks!

The Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDTM) has finally published a list of International Non-Proprietary Names (INNs) as declared by the World Health Organization (WHO). The entire list can be accessed over here. Hopefully this publication will be followed up by an official notification, following which Trade Marks Trade Mark Examiners will be mandated to examine pharmaceutical trademarks for any similarities to the INNs published in the list. Any names which are identical to those on the INN list will not be registered as a pharmaceutical trademark. 
Readers may remember that we had highlighted this issue on the blog just a few weeks ago. That post can be accessed over here. I’m posting an excerpt from the earlier post below:
Section 13 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 prohibits the registration of names of chemical elements or INNs which have been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) and notified by the Registrar of Trade Marks. 
INNs are particularly relevant in the field of pharmaceutical trademarks. In most instances INNs refer to the generic name of a pharmaceutical drug. However INNs can also refer to the common ‘functional group’ or ‘active ingredient’ of a particular class of pharmaceutical drugs. The website of the WHO describes the relevance of INNs as follows: 
The INN system as it exists today was initiated in 1950 by a World Health Assembly resolution WHA3.11 and began operating in 1953, when the first list of International Nonproprietary Names for pharmaceutical substances was published. The cumulative list of INN now stands at some 7000 names designated since that time, and this number is growing every year by some 120-150 new INN. 

Since its inception, the aim of the INN system has been to provide health professionals with a unique and universally available designated name to identify each pharmaceutical substance. The existence of an international nomenclature for pharmaceutical substances, in the form of INN, is important for the clear identification, safe prescription and dispensing of medicines to patients, and for communication and exchange of information among health professionals and scientists worldwide. 

As unique names, INN have to be distinctive in sound and spelling, and should not be liable to confusion with other names in common use. To make INN universally available they are formally placed by WHO in the public domain, hence their designation as “nonproprietary”. They can be used without any restriction whatsoever to identify pharmaceutical substances. 

Another important feature of the INN system is that the names of pharmacologically-related substances demonstrate their relationship by using a common “stem”. By the use of common stems the medical practitioner, the pharmacist, or anyone dealing with pharmaceutical products can recognize that the substance belongs to a group of substances having similar pharmacological activity.” 
Notifying a list of INNs is particularly relevant in India, given the sheer volume of litigation in the segment of pharmaceutical trademarks. According to the last annual report of the IPO, pharmaceutical trademarks account for 15% of all trademark registrations, making this class of trademarks the single largest category of trademarks. 
Although the Trade Marks Act, 1999 was passed in the year 1999, it was notified only in the year 2003. It has taken another 9 years since then for the Government to actually publish a list of INNs. 
Better late than never!
Tags: ,

About The Author

1 thought on “India finally publishes a list of International Non-proprietary Names (INNs) for pharma-trademarks!”

  1. I worked as Trademark Examiner at Intellectual Property Office, India and this is a welcome change at IPO.
    On further improvement side,
    Art 6ter list for the protection of Sovereign symbols, national emblems, govt indications (internationally) must also be notified so that examination for the trademarks becomes more error free in India in the wake of Madrid acceptance.
    In this regard WIPO generally publishes the said list which must be notified by the govt of India to be taken into considerations for the Trademark examination in India. Otherwise the sovereign symbols are generally not known and not pointed out in search reports and their abridged versions registrations would be difficult task for the Examiners to disapprove.
    I request all through this forum that such tools for better examination be made available to IP office for the international standard examination at IPO, India.


Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top