Gurstein, Michael on Sat, 16 Apr 2005 14:40:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Follow-up: India's_patent_flip

As a follow-up to the earlier note posted re: India's presentation at 
the recent WIPO meetings and ss a sign of the speed and force with which 
IP issues are emerging as an ideological fault-line in the "development 
policy" please see the attached.


>Businessworld India

The patent flip-flops

Latha Jishnu

Does India know what its stand on the internationalharmonisation of 
patent rules is? That's what the world is asking as Delhi does some 
amazing flip-flops at World Intellectual Property Organization (Wipo), 
the apex global organisation for intellectual property (IP) issues.

India has told a bemused Wipo in a note verbale that it does not support 
the recommendations made by an informal consultative meeting of the 
organisation in Casablanca in February. That session had been chaired by 
R.A. Mashelkar, director-general, Council of Scientific & Industrial 
Research. A globally reputed scientist and expert on IP, he was India's 
representative. (See 'The Next Battle Ground', BW, 11 April).

The note clarified that there is no change in India's "long-standing 
position" on the issues being addressed at Wipo. That is, India is 
firmly with the Group of Friends of Development (Group), a 14-nation 
bloc in Wipo led by Argentina and Brazil, which is pushing for a more 
nuanced approach to standardisation of patents. The Group wants to drive 
Wipo activities towards development-oriented results. It has been 
critical of the Casablanca resolution which had listed upward 
harmonisation of patent laws as a priority.

The flip-flops come at a critical time. On 13 April, Wipo wound up an 
intergovernmental meeting where the simmering differences between the US 
and its allies, and the Group almost spilled over. Three wearying days 
of closed-door meetings, mostly between small groups, proved 
inconclusive. Wipo agreed that the talks on the development agenda will 
be continued in June and July. Even Singapore, which is locked into a 
tight IP protection regime with the US through its 'state-of-the-art' 
free trade agreement, said on 11 April that IP protection cannot be a 
one-size-fits-all regime.

But India, earlier seen as a key negotiator on this issue, is now being 
viewed with an increasing degree of suspicion - by both the allies and 
the opposition. Although Indian officials have thrown their weight 
behind the Group, it is still not part of it. Worse, its stand changes 
within weeks.

The question that is being asked is: who is driving India's policy on IP 
and the Wipo agenda? The note verbale, embarrassingly for Delhi, implies 
Mashelkar chaired the Casablanca meeting in his personal capacity. 
Officials here say as secretary, Department of Scientific and Industrial 
Research, he would not have attended the meeting without clearance from 
science & technology (S&T) minister Kapil Sibal. Mashelkar did not 
respond to queries.

But why should the S&T ministry be involved in Wipo talks? 
Traditionally, IP has been the purview of the HRD ministry and its 
officials attend the sessions fairly regularly. But HRD minister Arjun 
Singh is not known to be engaged with the issue of IP rights.

However, the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion of the commerce 
ministry, part of the inter-ministerial group formulating policy on IP, 
is known to favour the US line on upward harmonisation and commerce 
ministry officials have sometimes found themselves at loggerheads with 
India's declared position on IP rights. In December 2003, joint 
secretary A.E. Ahmed started a bureaucratic storm because of his 
reluctance to oppose a US move to take the Patent Cooperation Treaty 
into substantive patent issues. He was moved out, but not before raising 
a question mark over India's position.

Evidently, some bureaucrats, with the tacit support of their ministers, 
have been pushing individual agendas in Wipo. Till there is a cohesive 
line, there could be more embarrassments.

Prabhu Ram,
Max-Planck-Institut for Intellectual Property, Competition and Tax Law, 
MarstallPlatz 1, 80539 Munich GERMANY

Tel: + 49 89 24246226
Mob: + 49 17629830521
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