Earlier this week, ET quoted DIPP Secretary Amitabh Kant as saying that the Indian government would be announcing a “completely new” IPR policy in the next two months that would be “one of the finest” in the world. The context of the announcement is as important as the unsaid implication that the current IP policy suffers from some sort of malaise – Kant was responding to a representative from German industry complaining that India’s current regime “hampers growth”.
As regular readers are no doubt aware, the framing and enunciation of India’s IP policy has been particularly problematic – riddled with contradictions and doublespeak. We’ve told you how Indian IP policy is two-tongued, and posited that the only possible explanation for the consistent inconsistencies is that statements of intent regarding IP policy in India are aimed at various stakeholders such as big pharma, public interest IP activists, and everyone between them on the spectrum. [Swaraj even put together a “timeline of inconsistencies” to illustrate how this has played out.]
The timing of the announcement is significant – the recent past has seen pressure from the US, and the signing of the TPP. Further, the latest draft of the IP policy has been criticised by civil society and academia both in India and abroad, with some scholars questioning the basic assumptions on which it’s built. Another significant criticism of the draft has been the lack of public consultation, transparency and discussion, something that’s no doubt going to be a recurring concern in the next two months.
The content of the announcement is problematic, as well. There are two possibilities here, one more grim than the other. In the first case, Kant’s remark could have been intended to appease the German industry rep’s concern, and meant nothing. If so, this would simply be the latest in a long line of empty noises made by the government on its IP policy. The other, more alarming possibility is that Kant actually meant what he said, and that we will be getting a “completely new” policy come December. There seems to be nothing fundamentally wrong with India’s existing IP policy in the first place, and even if there is, policy overhauls aren’t supposed to take place with such minimal consultation and public participation.
In summary, Kant’s seemingly off-the-cuff remark is either slightly worrying or significantly worrying – only time will tell us what this really means for Indian IP policy.