In its Special 301 report 2014, the US Trade Representative (USTR) has identified India as a “priority watch country” for failure to protect intellectual property. This does not hold water as the WTO doesn’t permit unilateral action against member-countries. India must challenge the USTR report and clearly signal that it wouldn’t accept any intrusion into its domestic policy-making space. The US is seeking changes in the Indian patent regime, but there have been cases when it took steps to protect its consumers against excessive rent-seeking by patent holders in its territory. The US has been issuing compulsory licences to protect public interest as well as abuse of patent monopoly.
It is apparent that the US follows double standards while dealing with anti-competitive practices arising from the exercise of patent monopolies; it uses several instruments to ensure domestic consumers don’t suffer. But in its dealings with partner countries, the US administration champions the cause of their corporate interests even if they are in flagrant violation of public interest. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), which involves protecting data collected during research, for instance, has been a bone of contention between India and the US, more so after a couple of key IP related court judgments went against pharmaceutical giants Novartis and Bayer. In a patronising tone, the USTR report says “in the coming months, the US will redouble its efforts to seek opportunities for meaningful, sustained, and effective engagement on IP-related matters with the new government, including at senior levels and through technical exchanges, that will both improve IP protection and enforcement in India”.
India must make it clear that it can neither be intimidated nor cajoled into doing the US’ bidding unless it conforms to India’s national interest. There has to be a level playing field. We cannot allow the US to impose its will on New Delhi. While we must comply with reasonable WTO guidelines if the same are followed by the western world we will not buckle under US pressure.