Members Of US Congress Seek Pressure On India Over IP Rights

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A large portion of the United States Congress this week signed on to a letter to President Obama criticising India for its treatment of intellectual property rights. And a second letter was sent today from the House Way & Means Committee, which oversee trade issues. [Update:] A third letter also was sent today by 40 senators to Secretary of State John Kerry on the eve of the US-India Strategic Dialogue.

In the first letter, the members question the “appropriateness” of Indian court decisions rejecting a western pharmaceutical industry practice of extending monopoly patent protection for decades beyond its original expiration date. They also question India’s right to use compulsory licensing to make “life-saving” drugs cheaper and more available, a measure agreed to under international trade rules.

Some 170 congressional members signed the letter dated 18 June, available here [pdf] via the Knowledge Ecology International website. There are 435 members of Congress.

US industry simultaneously launched a coalition on the same subject this week (IPW, US Policy, 18 June 2013).

India is a leader in producing generic pharmaceuticals after they come off patent.

In the second letter, dated 20 June and available here [pdf], the Ways & Means Committee members told Obama: “[W]e have seen a disturbing trend in which India is turning inward and erecting barriers to trade and investment – directly and negatively affecting the ability of U.S. manufacturers, farmers, and ranchers to sell to, enter, and operate in India and access 1.2 billion new customers. India is at a crossroads to determine whether it will continue market liberalizing policies that have led to its strong growth and rapid rise over the past twenty years or turn back the clock. As a result, this year’s meetings provide a particularly timely opportunity to encourage India to pursue market-based policies and reforms instead of erecting barriers that hurt U.S. exporters, investors, and workers as well as its own citizens.

The letter further explained the argument for challenging India’s use of compulsory licensing. “While the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), as interpreted by the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (Doha Declaration), permits the issuance of CLs under limited circumstances, it makes clear that countries cannot use them in a manner that discriminates against imports or in favor of domestic manufacturing,” it said. “India’s actions thus appear to contravene India’s obligations and the Doha Declaration.”

[Update:] In the letter from 40 senators (out of the total 100) to Kerry, they urged the State Department to take steps to stop India’s “discriminatory trade and economic practices.”

The senators’ letter is here.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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