2015 started with the controversial ‘first draft’ of the ‘National IPR Policy’ of India. It was prepared by a government panel and was issued for public circulation in November 2014. There was much hope and optimism that for the first time the Government of India will lay down a path which will not only help in resolving the IPR policy issues that have plagued the Indian market but also quell international pressures. Neither objective has been achieved by the ‘first draft’; various stakeholders (both domestic and foreign) have in fact criticised it. Most of the IPR policy issues, like compulsory licensing, efficient prosecution of patent applications, photocopying of academic books and effective functioning of copyright collecting societies are yet being shaped. Additionally, there has been no traction in geographical indications and traditional knowledge. India continues to be a low producer of IP. The only definitive policy decision that can be extrapolated from the ‘first draft’ is the fact that India has refused to accept TRIPS plus obligations. Therefore, the contentious provision of section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act is here to stay along with a strong compulsory licensing regime. In fact, the government has affirmed that India comply with international standards.
‘First draft’ – National IPR Policy
The ‘first draft’ provides in detail various measures to improve the IP culture and production in India. Emphasis is on promoting IP through educational programmes. The intent is to include IP education as part of our education system at all levels and incorporate IP culture within our industry. There is no conclusive evidence that merely transmitting IP education will make India and Indians producers of IP, as we require more than just IP education for making Indians producers of IP. There is also a long list of targeted programs to encourage large pools of scientific and technological talent of India to produce IP. With respect to legal framework of IP the ‘first draft’ categorically states that IP laws will be reviewed to remove anomalies and inconsistencies based on an objective and analytical studies. To meet the constant request of foreign IP owners, the government has also detailed measures to make Intellectual Property Offices (IPOs) more efficient. There is also a promise to set up an IP Promotion & Development Council (IPPDC) as a nodal organization for the promotion, creation and commercialization of IP assets and establishment of a national level Institute of Excellence to provide leadership in IP. For combating IP violations there are suggestions for strengthening the enforcement and adjudicatory mechanism.
Unfortunately, it’s been over one year since the ‘first draft’ was published and very little has been put into action. In fact, after flak from various stakeholders, the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion in April 2015 had informed a leading newspaper that the final version of the policy had been finalised but is yet to be approved by the Cabinet. The year 2015 is long gone and we are still waiting for a reformulated IPR policy from the Government of India.
Future of IPR Policy of India-
The Government of India had announced in August 2015 that they will be coming out with a new IPR policy in about two months. We are in January 2016 and are still waiting for the new policy document. Therefore, it is very difficult to predict when the government will issue the new IPR policy document in the public domain. Without a clear IPR policy, there will be very few changes in the present IPR culture and regime of India.