We should strengthen IP regime to improve competitiveness

India’s intellectual property (IP) regime has witnessed steady progress ever since the country became a signatory to the TRIPS agreement of the World Trade Organization, which entered into force in 1995.

Many laws have been amended in India to support the process of economic development and balance national priorities with concerns of domestic and international companies wanting to invest in India. Prominent among these have been the Patent Amendment Act of 2002 & 2005, the Trademark Act of 1999 (amended in 2010), the Copyright Act (amended most recently in 2012), the Plant Varieties Act of 2001, the Geographic Indication of Goods Act, 1999 and the Design Act of 2000.

Apart from the national acts, India is also now a signatory to many international treaties and conventions which showcase the country’s commitment to IP. However, India is at the bottom of global indices like the Intellectual Property Rights Index of the US Chamber of Commerce. It is placed 37th out of 38 countries considered for the index in 2016. It has also been put on the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 report under ‘priority watch list’ for 2015 and has been there for a significant period.

In spite of all the conventions, treaties, and national laws, enforcement remains a challenge. Modi government had, in its first year, instituted an IPR think tank and introduced the draft IP policy that is slated to be out in the final format anytime soon. It is aimed at strengthening the country’s IP regime.

However, a robust ecosystem for innovation can only get created when there is clarity on regulatory issues at the national level. There are many issues here which need resolution.

For instance, take the recent case of Ericsson and other domestic mobile phone manufacturers, which have gone to different judicial forums like the Delhi HC and The Competition Commission of India to resolve an ensuing patent.
Also, DIPP has recently issued a White Paper on standard essential patents for public consultation which seeks stakeholder response to a set of 13 questions. There is a specific question about whether royalty rates should be decided by the government.

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