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    Departed Indian Diplomat Confronted US Business Over India’s IP Policy

    Published on 12 January 2014 @ 5:39 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    Just weeks before being abruptly arrested and strip-searched in New York leading to outrage in her home country, a now-departed Indian diplomat defended India’s position on intellectual property rights. For instance, she took on the powerful US business lobby over India’s controversial approach to intellectual property.

    Devyani Khobragade, the former deputy consul general of India in New York, left New York Friday in a high-profile departure after her government refused to lift her immunity so she could face US charges related to visa fraud and treatment of a household worker.

    [Update:] According to the US Justice Department indictment [pdf] (see p. 16, paragraph 44 and forward), the worker’s case against Khobragade began last summer. [Editor's Note: this story does not intend to assert that there is a link between Khobragade's departure and her stated views on IPRs.]

    Her story has been front-page news in the United States and India, but with opposing views, as explained in a New York Times article.

    “In the month that has passed since Ms. Khobragade’s arrest, she has been transformed into a symbol of India’s sovereignty, pushed around and humiliated by an arrogant superpower,” it said. The Indian press have been filled with strongly worded articles on the subject. People in the United States meanwhile have focussed concern on the house worker, Sangeeta Richard.

    In a sense, the differing views of Khobragade by the United States and India reflect the differences the world’s two largest democracies have over intellectual property rights.

    In the past year or so, the Indian government and courts have taken several actions on IP rights seen as unfavourable to the developed country pharmaceutical industry that could have far-reaching ramifications as other nations in the developing world begin to emulate them (IPW, Developing Country Policy, 27 November 2013).

    Actions included court denial of pharmaceutical patents because they do not represent a true innovation, and issuing a compulsory licence for a drug, which allows generic production of a patented medicine without the patent-holder’s authorisation. India has the world’s largest generics industry.

    These actions have stirred the ire of US business and government. A campaign was launched last summer, led by the US Chamber of Commerce, the largest US industry trade association, aimed at changing India’s tactics on IPR (IPW, Lobbying, 18 June 2013).

    “In recent months, India has systematically failed to respect global intellectual property standards, causing an impact to its investment potential,” Mark Elliot, executive vice president of the Chamber’s Global IP Center (GIPC), said in a statement at the launch. “From unprecedented patent revocations and denials to insufficient copyright enforcement, India has established itself as an outlier in the global economy.”

    (For Intellectual Property Watch stories about India, see here.)

    On 14 November, the GIPC held an event on the doorstep of the investment community in Manhattan that called into question India’s practices on IPR, suggesting that it is hurting foreign investment (IPW, Developing Country Policy, 18 November 2013).

    At that event, attended by Intellectual Property Watch, Khobragade was outspoken in defence of India and engaged in debate with US industry proponents. She emphatically denied that India has violated its obligations under World Trade Organization IP rules (no country has yet brought a dispute there), said investment and research are strong in the country, distinguished that India’s courts are independent from government, and said that just because of one compulsory licence and a couple of court decisions, one cannot say the investment environment is off.

    Khobragade demanded that in future, an Indian representative be given a place at the table to present their side of the story. Industry representatives and consultants, meanwhile, argued that repeated efforts to engage with the Indian government have met with little success.

    Further engagement would not be possible, however, as a few weeks later, the US investigation found alleged violations in her treatment and handling of the worker. [Editor's Note: no connection has been established between the event and the investigation.]

    India retaliated against the US action on Khobragade (including removing now-restored security barriers around the US embassy in New Delhi), and on Friday the US agreed to expel a US diplomat of equal rank from New Delhi, according to reports.

    The US-India Business Council, which includes the US Chamber and Indian industry groups, tracked the Khobragade story on a daily basis in its news to subscribers.

    Whether all of this activity are symptoms of the beginning of a global change in the IP system, or are isolated instances, may come clear in 2014.

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

     

    Comments

    1. Andy Mills says:

      Just a slight correction, i drove past the US Embassy in New Delhi this very morning and i have to tell you that the security barriers have most definitely not been restored.

    2. sanjai dhar says:

      Thank you Andy Mills. I am happy that India is showing some backbone at last.

      The ancient Sanskrit sayings is:

      Vinash kaalay vipreet buddhi. Loosely translated it means that at the time of destruction (of the US Empire) intelligence goes into reverse.

    3. Riaz Tayob says:

      Without any disrespect to Ms Richard, from this article it seems Khobragade was “Spitzered” or “Swartzed”… meanwhile the NSA can’t tell Congress if it is being spied upon (so long separation of powers, checks and balances) – ironic because it will violate privacy (no kidding!). And unlike Dhar, the US ain’t in decline… it is just getting warmed up… ever wonder why anything progressive at the WHO was out maneuvered by the US? It was foreign service personnel who requested the spying… but don’t expect any of WHO’s global health diplomacy to talk about encryption and discretion. The least they could do is give poor countries the assurance that their machines are clean and they can freely use IT services (including wifi) without any fear of abuse… but then courtesy to poor countries has not been WHO’s strong suit…


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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