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India’s Defence against IP Disrespect Claim

Issued: March 31 2014

After losing its patent grant, multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis has asked the United States and European governments to urge the Indian government to do a better job of respecting IP. But Vijay Kumar Makyam, head of patents and trademarks at IP Markets, a techno-legal consultant in Hyderabad, defends his country’s government against the allegation.

Saying that the Indian government does not respect IP is completely groundless, Makyam says, noting that India has endorsed the TRIPS Agreement and has vowed to abide by the global IP standards.

“What the court looked into [in the Novartis case] was the issue of evergreening of patents,” he says. “There have been many reported cases from the west where evergreening has prolonged the duration of patent beyond the legal period. India’s Supreme Court did not find anything innovative in the patent claimed by Novartis.”

In 2013, the Indian Supreme Court ruled against Novartis in rejecting the pharmaceutical group’s application for a patent for an updated version of its cancer drug Glivec, which is marketed in some parts of the world under the Gleevec name. The verdict was one of several Indian court rulings that have overturned or rejected patents from western drug companies, including Bayer and Pfizer.

India has, in turn, accused the west of conducting inappropriate actions, including unauthorized and illegal seizure of Indian pharmaceutical exports, Makyam says. “Such has been a huge issue in bilateral talks.”

Some groups in the pharmaceutical industry have asked the US Trade Representative to designate India a Priority Foreign Country, which is seen a step closer towards possible trade sanctions.

“It is unfortunate that these groups have not been able to appreciate the justifiable stands taken by the Indian courts in the pharmaceutical matters,” Makyam says. “India has one of the most technically-qualified populations in the drug industry, so the request of the industry groups is completely unfair.”

The industry groups also claim that help improve the overall understanding of key data privacy concepts.” Wilkinson notes that the guide is a significant development in the field of data protection as DIFC is recognized the Indian government and courts have tended towards narrow interpretations of patent protection for costly, lifesaving medicines in a bid to allow wider access to cheaper generics.

Indeed, India cannot be a bystander when IPs are used as tools for monopoly, Makyam says. “The Novartis and Bayer judgments have enlightened the local medical and patient community, and today patients [who need] very costly drugs are looking out for similar judgements.”

Drug makers worry that India’s strict approach to granting patents will become a model for other developing countries, affecting their bottom lines.

Despite the tension, Novartis will be relocating some 4,000 jobs from Europe to India’s southern city of Hyderabad, where it expects to move into a new campus in late 2015.

In fact, Makyam expects to see an increase of jobs in the industry. India is a growing market, he says. “This really can be illustrated by the number of patent grants in the pharmacy sector.”