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Does IP build or block?


201704ep37Its been 17 years since the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) started marking April 26 as World Intellectual Property Day. Themes in the recent past reflect the all pervasive influence of intellectual property rights (IPR) in our lives and reflect how WIPO built on the key message that IPR was, or should be, the cornerstone of civilisation going forward. The first year, 2001, was about Creating the Future Today, 2002 took this forward with Encouraging Creativity. 2003 focused on Making IP your Business and the next year reinforced this by underlying the Importance of IP for Economic, Social and Cultural Development.

From 2005, we see WIPO involving individuals and joining the dots between IP, ideas and creativity. If 2005 urged people to Think, Imagine, Create, the next year reminded that IP Starts with an Idea. 2007 underlined the Link Between IP and Creativity, and 2008 was about Celebrating Innovation and Respecting IP. In 2009, WIPO moved from the individual to global issues as it focused on Promoting Green Innovation as the key to a Secure Future. The global trend continued in 2010 (Innovation – Linking the World) and 2011 (Designing the Future). In 2012, the focus rightly shifted back to the importance of the individual in the IPR ecosystem, with a celebration of Visionary Innovators.

In 2013, WIPO focussed on Creativity – The Next Generation, and over the next three years, celebrated examples of such creativity. In 2014, it was Movies – A Global Passion, where the spotlight was on IP in movies. IP in Music was centrestage in 2015, with the theme, Get up, stand up. For music. 2016 focussed on yet another creation of next generation creativity, digital creativity and how it was reimagining culture.
This year, 2017 looks at how Innovation (is) Improving Lives. WIPO will explore how innovation is making our lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable, turning problems into progress. WIPO intends to look at how the IP system supports innovation by attracting investment, rewarding creators, encouraging them to develop their ideas, and ensuring that their new knowledge is freely available so that tomorrow’s innovators can build on today’s new technology.

But is this supposition true of all countries? Especially developing countries like India? Therefore as our theme for World Intellectual Property Day, Express Pharma chose to ask if IPR was a building block or a stumbling block? We asked legal experts to analyse issues like why India is placed second last on the US Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC)’s annual global IP rankings, even though only one compulsory license has been granted so far and there have been quite a few judgments supporting patent holders. In fact, one legal eagle wonders if India qualifies for a Guinness World Record for the highest number of ex parte/ ad interim injunctions in patent infringement suits till 2016!

Beyond India, IP laws are evolving and pharma companies need to track regulations in each country that they export to. Aspects like litigation, patentability, revocation, etc are specific to each jurisdiction and are in a constant state of flux. For instance, the Unitary Patent in the European Union calls for new strategies. The 4th Amendment to the Chinese patent law is still pending. New patent regulations in Russia which came into force from August 14 last year and changes in the practices of the Russian Patent Office need more scrutiny.

Like India, many countries are looking at ways to reduce patent prosecution delays but that has not stopped countries like Brazil from implementing a green patent pilot programme. Now in its fourth phase, the programme promises to examine applications in two years or less if they are related to alternative energy, and similar sectors. Properly regulated, IP is most often a building rather than a stumbling block.

Viveka Roychowdhury

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