Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jun16/04)
Society Joint Statement on the Occasion of Prime Minister Narendra
*1st June 2016*
We understand that intellectual property rights (IPRs) would be a priority topic of discussion during Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to the United States of America (USA). During the past two decades or so, the issue of IPRs has become a key tool for managing competition in the name of promoting innovation and a knowledge economy.
The Policy sees the generation of IPRs as an end itself. However, in reality, promotion of IPRs has not only limited the ability of developing countries obtain critical technologies for their economic and social development, but has also seriously impacted their peoples’ lives by making essential goods such as medicines, seeds, and textbooks unaffordable. In other words, IPRs have not allowed the citizens in the developing world to enjoy fully the fruits of scientific progress and its applications. Ever since the WTO TRIPS Agreement has been implemented, protection and enforcement of IPRs has compromised the ability of developing countries like India to fulfil the human rights obligations guaranteed under the international human rights treaties and their respective constitutions. The Policy deliberately makes statements that make it appear it balanced on first blush but the real intent is evident by the fact that it specifically mention a review of laws. Considering the pending RC EP negotiations this is opening the doors for changes as demanded by the MNC and their states, US, Japan and the EU.
The Policy is divorced from the socio economic stage of India’s development and the role it plays internationally, India has used the flexibilities available within the TRIPS Agreement to minimise the damage arising from its implementation. This has been true especially while the provisions relating to patents and plant variety protection have been implemented. While in case of the former, India gave space to the generic industries to function and to provide cheap medicines, the Indian Parliament in 2001 passed a unique law for plant varieties’ protection that recognizes farmers’ rights to protect their varieties and to re-use seeds that they have bought from the commercial plant breeder. These laws have played an important role in preventing the IP monopoly from adversely affecting people’s lives and livelihoods. India cannot compromise on TRIPS flexibilities; it must continue to use CLs and other (price) controls for better access to medicines, seeds, etc.
Many developing countries like the Philippines, Brazil and South Africa have also emulated or are trying to emulate India’s examples of safeguarding public interest while amending their intellectual property (IP) laws.
We are concerned that the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy adopted by the Cabinet ignores India’s experience of implementing a regime of IP protection that balances the rights of the IP holders and public interest, by proposing an “IP maximalist” agenda. This approach also ignores the wealth of empirical evidence that points to the limitations imposed by the IP regime on the innovation systems. The thrust of this policy is to unleash a one-sided pro-IP campaign that speaks of generating intellectual property rights and their effective enforcement, and turns a blind-eye to the fact that such a regime would compromise public interest. This IP maximalist agenda in the policy fully ignores the socio-economic needs of people of this country and serving the profit motives of Trans National Corporations (TNCs) that own an overwhelming majority of the world’s IP. We urge the government to reconsider this anti-people policy.
We understand the primary intent of the policy is to respond to the aggressive demands of United States government, backed by the corporate interests especially the pharmaceutical companies, to amend India’s IP laws that include several safeguards to protect the public interest. The government of India should remain committed to the welfare of its people’s interest and should not succumb to the pressures that it is being subjected to. Above all, the government must fulfil its obligation to protect the rights of the citizens that have been guaranteed by the constitution, in particular, right to health, right to education, and right to food.
In light of the above, we urge the Prime Minister:
Forum Against FTAs
All Indian Drug Action Network
Initiative for Health & Equity in Society
Third World Network
National Working Group on Patent Laws
New Trade Union Initiative
Software Freedom Law Centre
Centre for Internet and Society