With all the talk that has been done in the past of our IP laws, seemingly favouring innovation and not heeding to pressure from the developed world to enforce a more monopoly centric agenda, we have recently taken a huge leap backwards. A joint statement released by the Indian and the US governments pointed towards increased “co-operation” between the two governments in the realm of IP, but used a very troubling idea. I quote from the section “Economic Growth” (the irony!), “The leaders committed to work through the Trade Policy Forum to promote a business environment attractive for companies to invest and manufacture in India and in the United States. Agreeing on the need to foster innovation in a manner that promotes economic growth and job creation, the leaders committed to establish an annual high-level Intellectual Property (IP) Working Group with appropriate decision-making and technical-level meetings as part of the Trade Policy Forum.”
The reason that this is worrying is because it grants a body such as the Trade Policy Forum the authority to affect decisions regarding the IP Policy of the country. The US has been known in the past to use Trade Barriers to impose their will upon the rest of the developing world and a body such as the Trade Policy Forum which was created as a bilateral forum to discuss and resolve Trade Issues is perhaps dangerously close to implementing such an agenda. The very idea of granting the authority to groups such as the TPF, represents a move towards non-transparency and is indicative of the trend that the US has followed in linking Trade and IP and asserting their Trade dominance to impose their version of IP. This has been done in the past in agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and various other bilateral agreements. The United States Trade Representative (USTR) which has been in the past extremely critical of Indian IP policies, will now have a say in IP Policy making. This would open the doors some very restrictive, monopoly favouring policies that aren’t favourable to Indian public.
Probably the worst hit would be drug industry. We export a large chunk of the generic medication that is used to fight diseases like HIV AIDS across the developing world and at miniscule fraction of the cost, due to our IP policies. This entire industry would come to a grinding halt if the USTR was to have their way, leaving millions of patients across the world without access to medicine.
This is perhaps in response to the growing criticism by the US industrial lobby of Indian IP policy and the Modi government’s investor appeasement policy that such a broad ended power is being granted to the USTR. This is also indicative of a worrying trend where a large number of generics are adopting strategies utilised by the MNCs of the developed world or are entering into settlements with them.
Our IP policy is the lifeblood for the entire developing world, where we lead by example and demonstrate that it is possible technology transfer at affordable prices closer to a practical reality. If we renege on our stance in the matter, we may perhaps be affecting a lot more than just our domestic IP policy. A large fraction of the developing world has already bowed to US pressure, I hope we’re not next in line.