In a rather worrying development, it appears that US-based “Intellectual Property Owners Association” (IPO), possibly in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), has arranged a series of exclusive meetings with members of the Indian Judiciary, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board, Custom officials and Intellectual Property Offices in Delhi and Chennai.
Despite its innocuous sounding title, the IPO’s Innovation Dialog Trip to India (Nov 16 – 21) is a big cause for concern. As this ToI article points out, “The delegation plans to meet and interact with intellectual property office (IPO) officials, Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) members, judiciary and judicial staff of high courts and the Supreme Court justices, or in short, all those who can influence or who have a bearing on the cases they are fighting in India.” Frankly, given conflict of interest concerns, I’m surprised such meetings are being allowed at all! In fact, it was due to the mere participation in 2 conferences (as opposed to exclusive meetings as seems to currently be the case) organised by the very same Intellectual Property Owners Association, that led to the letter requesting the recusal, and the eventual recusal of Justice Bhandari in the Novartis – Glivec dispute in 2011, as Novartis was a member of the IPOA.
The IPOA has on its Board of Directors, personnel from several top MNC Pharma cos including its President Philip S Johnson (Johnson & Johnson). Before even looking at the members of the organization, the Board of Directors itself includes members from Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Roche, Eli Lilly, and GSK amongst others. Our readers may remember the Board member from Pfizer, Roy Waldron, who had gone to the US House of Representatives with severe criticisms of India’s Pharmaceutical Patent Regime. (And I’ve pointed out several of what I termed as “intellectual dishonesties” in his statement in my earlier post here). Given that there are many disputes currently pending (and/or appealable) with these very companies before the bodies they are scheduled to meet on this trip, is the conflict of interest not obvious?
According to the site, the IPO’s Innovation Dialog Trip to India is being sponsored Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan attorneys, Lex Orbis, CII, and S.S.Rana & Co.
As Livelaw reported earlier this evening, this arrangement of meetings has not gone without notice. The “Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab” has addressed a letter of protest to the Chief Justice of India, Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and to the Chairman of the IPAB. The letter “raises concerns regarding the serious conflict of interest involved in such meetings, which would cast a dark shadow on the neutrality of the judiciary. The letter hence requested the cancelling of any scheduled meetings with the IPOA delegation.”
In pertinent part, the letter (made available by LiveLaw here) states:
“The claim that these meetings are being organized to “share experiences and perspectives on intellectual property and practice with patent practitioners and the judiciary of India” is a shameless ruse – the intent is clearly to create an opportunity for multinational pharmaceutical companies to lobby on contentious issues that are taking center stage in the struggle over the interpretation of India’s medicines patent law,” … “Our courts are in the forefront of the move to hold public institutions to account for any breach of ethics and propriety. The recent step taken by the Supreme Court to scrutinise the visitors book of the Director of Central Bureau of Investigation is a clear message in this regard, with serious note being taken of the alleged visits of individuals directly or indirectly linked to ongoing CBI investigations.”