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National IPR Think tank – What’s going on?


2200500024_e93db99b61[Editor’s note: There is now a follow up post available here]

The new IPR think tank has opened up questions galore! What exactly is going on here? In this post, I’m putting forth three questions I’d like to see answers to:

1. Sagnik Dutta at Frontline has come out with an in-depth article on some rather questionable decisions by the Government with respect to the new National IPR think-tank that was constituted recently. (See our post on it here). The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) constituted this think tank on October 22nd, 2014 with the primary intention of having the think tank ‘draft a national IPR policy’. As Sagnik points out however,

“This think tank was formed even while the government had just received a draft national IPR policy from a three-member group of renowned academics that the DIPP constituted on July 24. This committee—comprising Prabuddha Ganguly, IPR chair professor of Tezpur University; Shamnad Basheer, IPR expert; and Yogesh Pai, assistant professor at National Law University, Delhi—submitted a draft national IPR policy on October 21. There was no correspondence whatsoever from the DIPP following the submission of this document, and much to the committee’s amazement, the department announced the formation of a think tank tasked with the same job that it had been assigned.”

This 3 member committee, though having completed the assigned task of drafting a national IPR policy seems to have been completely ignored after the submission of their document. They only heard about the formation of the new think tank from press reports and have had no correspondence from the government on their submitted document. As to the contents of the document – as per the Frontline article:

Speaking about the thrust areas of the draft policy, Basheer said: “The policy was to offer guiding principles while negotiating with international partners for free trade agreements. We had made it clear that it was meant not to substitute existing laws but to outline India’s position with respect to various IP regimes and international obligations did not override the public interest and the civil rights of our people. The draft policy also highlighted the concerns of stakeholders who are not normally represented in the intellectual property debate such as the informal economy.” (Read more about the contents of the draft policy in the Frontline article here)

So first question – what exactly happened here? Did someone in the upper echelons not like the draft policy and decide it would be better to pretend it never happened? Are there conflicting decision makers within the DIPP who both independently decided to constitute committees, and then they had to discard one? Or was the draft submitted considered so bad that the DIPP decided that three top IP scholar’s opinions could just be thrown aside without explanation? I can’t really think of what would explain these actions. Anyone in the know – please do write in.

2. Next comes the issue of the new IPR think tank itself. Assuming there was some reason to discard the previous committee – this gives rise to my second question – what qualifies these new 6 members as appropriate, (especially when the previous three weren’t)? i.e., what criteria did the DIPP consider while choosing these members? While the previous 3 member committee was clearly composed of IP scholars (all three of which have also held MHRD IP Chairs at some point), there seems to be nothing in common with the current 6 member committee. Once again, as the Frontline article points out – other than the chair of the committee, Justice Prabha Sridevan, there are several questions, even from within industrial stakeholders, as to the appropriateness of some members. Once again – do read the article for more information on this. [Edit: Please also read this article in DownToEarth, by Latha Jishnu, which discusses this question and more in depth]

(A strange side note to add: The committee has asked for comments from the public already – without having put out anything to comment on! Unless the committee plans on publishing all these comments and publicly responding to the major points raised – I fail to see the point of this call for comments. I can only hope that this is in fact what they plan on doing).

3. And finally – Is the National IPR Think tank above questioning?

Yesterday, Dec 1st, the Times of India published an article that severely criticised this new think tank – describing it as “riddled with conflict”. However, just a few hours later – the article was removed from the site. The now removed article, titled “Panel to draft intellectual property policy riddled with conflict of interest” was previously available at

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toierrorfound.cms?url=http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Panel-to-draft-intellectual-property-policy-riddled-with-conflict-of-interest/articleshow/45331229.cms

As is seen now though – the page is not found. However, thanks to Google Cache – it is still available here. [In case the cached version gets updated/changed, I’ve also made it available here]

So my third question – Why was this taken down, and who ‘ordered’ it done? It appears someone somewhere wanted to hide the article.. so, do give it a read!! [Big thanks for the anonymous tip as to this article being taken down]

Swaraj Paul Barooah

Swaraj Paul Barooah

Follow @swarajpb Swaraj has a deep interest in IP, Innovation and Information policy, especially when they involve issues relating to Access to Knowledge, Innovation incentive mechanisms, Digital Freedoms, Open Access, Education, Health and Development. After his BA, LLB (hons) from Nalsar Univ of Law, Hyderabad, he went on to do his LLM from UC Berkeley in 2010. He is now pursuing his J.S.D. degree from UC Berkeley where he is focusing on Drug Innovation Policy and Access to Medicines. Aside from SpicyIP, he is also engaged as a consultant on various IP matters, and is a visiting faculty member at Nalsar Univ of Law. He is also in the process of starting up a New Delhi based "IP, Innovation & Information Policy" focused think-tank.

2 comments.

  1. Anonymous

    Anand Grover (Senior advocate and former UN special rapporteur on the right to health) replied to q question- Why has the Indian government’s IP think tank generated controversy?
    Health activists primarily have a problem with the composition of the think tank. Barring Prabha Sridevan, who is former chairperson of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) and has heard important patent cases as a high court judge in Chennai, what is the background of the other members? Do they have any research background or experience in policy-making? Where are the academicians who have been advising the government on IP for so many years? We want to know from the government how the members of the think tank were picked. There has to be a transparent process. The BJP has come to power partly on the basis it is against nepotism. Who picked the members? The mandate of the think tank suggests that they will advise the government on IP policy forever. All this might just be window dressing, because some lobby within the government is pushing to change the IP law. Even the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) want the law changed. But they have always been part of the MNC conglomerate and will only think of their interests and about getting more investment. It will not be that easy. Our patent law was unanimously passed by Parliament. The whole government has backed the stance on section 3(d) so far. It will be a huge shift if they actually come out against it.
    Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/stoi/all-that-matters/If-US-had-a-patent-law-like-ours-they-would-discover-many-more-drugs-Anand-Grover/articleshow/45322866.cms

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