During a recent hearing before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, witnesses reportedly expressed concerns about India’s intellectual property practices, particularly the revocation of pharmaceutical patents and the rejection of patent applications for drugs deemed insufficiently innovative. Among those testifying at the purported unfair trade practices hearing—“A Tangle of Trade Barriers: How India’s Industrial Policy is Hurting U.S. Companies”—were representatives of the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and drug makers.
According to one witness, “Since early 2012, India’s policies and actions have undermined patent rights for at least nine innovative medicines. Many of these medicines have received patent protection in most countries across the world, suggesting that India is an outlier in recognizing and enforcing patent rights. This is not only increasing significant uncertainty in the market, but it also undermines our ability to compete fairly in India, and our willingness to invest there.”
In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, however, India’s Ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao, reportedly said, “India has a well-settled, stable, and robust intellectual property regime. In India, the IP framework is rooted in law.” The country’s commerce department also apparently opined to the U.S. Trade Representative that India’s Patent Act “encourages genuine innovation by discouraging trivial, frivolous innovation, which leads to evergreening,” a common practice whereby drug makers make small changes to a patented drug, enabling them to obtain a new patent and extend the term of patented exclusivity. India has evidently suggested that the U.S. government strengthen its patent laws to deter “undesirable practices.” See Energy & Commerce Committee Press Release, June 27, 2013; Corporate Counsel, July 3, 2013.