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India remains on USTR Priority Watch List

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But no OCR this year … as yet

India remains on the US Trade Representative’s Priority Watch list of its annual Special 301 review. Unlike last year, the USTR is not announcing an Out of Cycle Review (OCR) at this time, but the Report mentions that it will monitor progress over the coming months, and will be prepared to take further action, if necessary.

Other countries on the 2015 Priority Watch List are Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela.

Drawing attention to the increased bilateral engagement in 2015 between the US and India on IPR concerns, following the 2014 OCR, the Report states that while India will remain on the Priority Watch List in 2015, there is expectation that the new channels for engagement created in the past year will bring about substantive and measurable improvements in India’s IPR regime for the benefit of a broad range of innovative and creative industries. The Report reiterates the US’ offer to work with India to achieve these goals.

While the Report says that the US welcomes April 2015 statements made by Prime Minister Modi recommending that India align its patent laws with international standards and encourages India expeditiously undertake this initiative, the PM’s statements have drawn protests here in India, with industry experts slamming the PM’s apparent admission that India’s IP laws are weak and need strengthening.

Other pain points flagged off in the Report include Section 3(d) of India’s Patents Act, patent opposition procedures, compulsory licensing law, regulatory data protection, trade secrets and localisation trends, where the US remains concerned about actions and policies in India that appear to favour local manufacturing or Indian IPR owners.

Industry also points out that while the Report lists access and trade barriers alleged practiced by India, certain facts refute this allegation. For instance, between 2005 and 2014, India granted about 63,000 patents in 20 different fields, (including chemical, mechanical engineering, electronics, pharmaceuticals, etc.) with a majority of them, say 52,000 (82 per cent), granted to foreign companies.

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