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27 November 2014Asia

US calls for stronger drug IP laws in India

India has been urged once again to strengthen its IP laws, particularly those covering drugs, following a visit from the US Trade Representative (USTR).

On a visit to capital city New Delhi on Tuesday (November 25), Michael Froman said a move to improve the country’s IP laws was needed to draw investment and spur the economy.

Froman was speaking after a two-day visit to meet officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was elected to government in May after a landslide win.

“To have a knowledge-based economy means having a strong intellectual property regime and strong enforcement regime,” Froman said.

Among the measures Froman suggested included a better safeguarding of patents, copyright, trade secrets and licensing.

The US has long had concerns over India’s stance on IP protection, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector.

India’s IP regime, which demands “genuine drug innovation” rather than allowing tweaks to existing patents—known as ‘evergreening’—has provided people with access to affordable medicines. But pharma companies including Bayer have lost patent protection there.

Froman’s words come just weeks after LSIPR reported that international charity Medecins SansFrontieres, in anticipation of his Indian visit, urged Modi not to alter patent laws and warned that a change could “put corporate profits over people’s health”.

Earlier this year, the  USTR placed India on the so-called watch list in its Special 301 Report—a run-down of US trading partners whose IP policies it has concerns about.

“There are serious questions regarding the future of the innovation climate in India across multiple sectors and disciplines,” the report, released in April, said, which singled out the pharma sector as an area of concern.

In October, the US said it would also be conducting an ‘out-of-cycle’ review into India’s IP regime.

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