India has for the second time in succession found itself at the bottom of the International Intellectual Property Index issued by the US apex trade body’s Global Intellectual Property Centre (GIPC). It certainly has a point that the scores assigned to some of the parameters used for computing the 25-nation index are not wholly incontrovertible. There can be no disputing that the concerns expressed by the GIPC over compulsory licensing and non-availability of patent term restoration are subjective, given that these are compatible with the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights or TRIPS as it is known.
Allowance has to be made for the fact that the patentability requirements in India are at variance with those in many other countries, including the US. Equally true, this does not in itself violate the TRIPS accord, which allows flexibility to developing countries to protect their domestic industry and public interest. Notwithstanding such powerful arguments, it does not redound to India’s credit that it is the worst global outlier on IP enforcement. One does not have to look far and wide to know how India lags behind in the enforcement of intellectual property rights. It is not uncommon to find pirated copies of films and songs being sold openly within a few days of their release. Pirated copies of internationally acclaimed books are available on footpaths in the metros at a fraction of their original price.
A film or a book is produced at tremendous cost but technology has made it possible to mass produce its copies and sell them at as low as `30 a piece. Similarly, pirated copies of software are commonly used even by established organisations and agencies as there is little awareness about the illegality involved. Trade bodies of film producers and theatre owners have woken up to the threat and have been doing everything possible to challenge the pirates. However, on its own, the government’s enforcement agencies do little. This needs to change.