US IP Industry Meeting With Indian Judges A “Ruse”, Activists Say 17/11/2014 by Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Public health activists and others have been watching closely in recent months as United States government and industry officials meet steadily and intensively with Indian counterparts to press change in that country’s intellectual property policy toward greater protection and recognition of western IP rights. A particular area of concern has been in pharmaceuticals, as India is said to be the world’s top supplier of affordable generic versions of drugs under patent that otherwise would be out of reach for millions of poor patients. Several activists have raised alarm over a meeting this week of US IP industry representatives with top judges in India. The Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab, an Indian activist group, has written a letter to the Indian Supreme Court, the Delhi High Court and IPAB expressing concerns regarding Intellectual Property Owners Association’s scheduled meetings with IPAB and the Delhi High Court next week. The IPO posted a note on the trip, saying: “Seventeen IPO members are participating in the IPO Innovation Dialog Trip to Delhi and Chennai, India from Sunday through Friday. The delegates will visit a variety of government and industry offices. The delegation leader is Larry Welch of Eli Lilly, who chairs the IPO Asian Practice Committee.” The activists’ letter [pdf] was addressed to: Hon’ble Justice Mr. H.L. Dattu, Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Supreme Court of India, New Delhi; Hon’ble Justice Smt. G. Rohini, Chief Justice, Delhi High Court; Hon’ble Justice K.N. Basha, Chairman, Intellectual Property Appellate Board, Chennai. The letter states: “We write to you on behalf of the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab, a network of treatment activists, patients and public interest lawyers committed to making the breast cancer drug – trastuzumab – affordable in India. We have closely followed the misuse of patent rights and more recently the vexatious litigation of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd in India to maintain control over the market for the life saving drug (trastuzumab), thus blocking access to treatment for many women diagnosed and suffering from HER2+ breast cancer. This letter is to express our grave concern about the intent and purpose of the “Innovation Dialog” being organised in India from November 16-22, 2014 by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPOA). The IPOA is a US-based group consisting of large corporations and law firms, looking to always interfere in intellectual property standards and enforcement in India without a balanced view about where it creates more harm than good, and where other alternatives might be better. It’s especially troubling, since there are areas –such as medicines – where over-aggressive use of intellectual property have been most damaging, locking up access to affordable treatment, rather than increasing the kind of competition that drives follow on innovation forward. Several multinational pharma corporations with interests in India are members of the IPOA. The agenda of the IPOA event over the next two weeks includes meetings with the IPAB (a quasi-judicial body) and the Delhi High Court1 and the offices of the Controller of Patents. The agenda also shows a scheduled visit to the Supreme Court of India. The intent of these meetings is clear – they are blatant attempts to influence the judicial outcomes in cases relating to drug patent disputes that are currently before the courts. The claim that these meetings are being organised to “share experiences and perspectives on intellectual property and practice with patent practitioners and the judiciary of India” is a shameless ruse – the intent is clearly to create an opportunity for multinational pharmaceutical companies to lobby on contentious issues that are taking center stage in the struggle over the interpretation of India’s medicines patent law. Among them is India’s patentability criteria that makes it tougher to get a patent on new forms of existing medicines; any refusal to grant excessive and unwarranted injunctions on claims of patent infringement; and discretion of the Patent Controller to grant a compulsory license to a competitor to bring down the prices of medicines that are patented. The meetings with the IPAB and the Delhi High Court are blatant attempts to influence the judicial decisions of these institutions with regard to current and future patent disputes. We understand that IPAB will soon be hearing appeals from some IPOA member companies against the rejection of their patent applications by the Indian Patent Office. The high courts and in particular the Delhi High Court are handling multiple litigations that demand the balancing of private IP rights with the fundamental rights to life and health enshrined in the Indian Constitution. IP owners are now increasingly using the tactic of asking for stay orders (interim injunctions) against their competitors. This is an area of growing controversy as multinational pharmaceutical companies are pushing for greater IP enforcement regardless of irreparable harm to patients.” The letter catalogues the pharma patent cases pending in India, and questions the ability of the court to remain independent. “The IPOA event, providing privileged access of an IP lobby group to the highest levels of the judiciary and key quasi-judicial bodies like the IPAB, involves a serious conflict of interest and would cast a dark shadow on the neutrality of the judiciary,” it said. 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