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US advocacy group wants USTR to put India on priority watch list


AFTI alleges that Delhi did not address numerous critical and long standing shortcomings to its IPR regime

An American business advocacy group has asked US Trade Representative to continue to place India on its priority watch list, alleging that there is strong evidence that New Delhi has not made sufficient efforts to protect Intellectual Property Rights holders’ interests. While the Government of India made some noteworthy improvements to the overall IP environment in 2017, the Alliance for Fair Trade with India (AFTI) said New Delhi did not address numerous critical and long standing shortcomings to its IPR regime. These critical shortcomings include costly and time-consuming patent opposition hurdles for patent applicants, and long timelines for receiving patents; and lack an effective system for protecting data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products, it said.

“There is a strong evidence that India has not made sufficient efforts to emerge from its current status under the Priority Watch List, or to protect adequately IPR holders’ interests with respect to patents, copyright, and trade secrets,” it said in its submission to the USTR on the latter’s Special 301 Review. The Special 301 Report is prepared annually by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) which identifies trade barriers to US companies and products due to the intellectual property laws, such as copyright, patents and trademarks, in other countries.

“AFTI requests that USTR once again place India on its Priority Watch List, where it has been placed ‘except for the few years it was listed as a Priority Foreign Country’ since the first Special 301 Report in 1989,”it said. AFTI members saw several new actions over the past year that created significant new IP challenges, it said. These include troublesome steps related to Section 8 of the Patent Law, new court rulings related to “patent working”, and a stronger push by India in international forums to weaken strong international rules for IPR protection, AFTI said.

The AFTI alleged that forced localisation continues to be a chronic issue facing US IPR holders in India. “The Modi administration has not taken meaningful action to revise protectionist forced localisation policies clearly aimed at favouring domestic IP holders at the expense of goods, services, and IP from other countries,” it said. “In addition, his ‘Make in India’ campaign has given some additional fodder to those who wish to promote local IPR and local manufacturing at the expense of US companies and products,” the AFTI said.

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