India-Japan trade pact to leave IP laws untouched

Business Standard | September 14, 2010

India-Japan trade pact to leave IP laws untouched

Joe C Mathew / New Delhi

The India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa), expected to be signed towards the end of this year, will not call for any amendments to the existing intellectual property (IP) laws in either of the partner countries.

Indian and Japanese officials, who approved in principle the Cepa draft, have chosen the legalistic model over a quid pro quo (give and take) model for concluding their IP-related negotiations, one of the biggest stumbling blocks that delayed the conclusion of the three-year-long negotiations, it is learnt.

The decision should come as a major relief to the domestic pharmaceutical industry and the patient groups that were lobbying hard against the attempts of global multinational firms to introduce IP provisions beyond what has been mandated under the TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) provisions of the World Trade Organization through bilateral trade agreements.

With the Indo-Japan trade pact almost sealed, the focus of the lobbyists will now be on Indo-EU negotiations, where similar demands are still in the negotiation drafts.

According to government sources, clauses that link the patent status of a medicine to the drug approval process and exclusivity for use of clinical trial data generated by innovator companies, will not have a mention in Cepa.

“The agreement will focus on the commitment to honour the existing IP laws in respective countries. Beyond that, there will be no mention about any IP enforcement procedures that may require amendments to existing laws”, the official said.

Indian and Japanese officials had met on September 9 to fine-tune the draft before a possible ratification of the agreement by both the countries during the coming visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Japan.

It should be noted that the quid pro quo and legalistic models were the two negotiation options put up by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, the nodal department for IP issues, during its discussions with various ministries early this year.

The majority of respondents, including the Department of Pharmaceuticals, had preferred the legalistic model, which involves no changes in the existing legal provisions.

The approach has been the same towards other intellectual properties such as geographical indications, trademarks, etc.

Cepa is expected to slash tariffs on more than 8,000 products including drugs, apparel, agricultural products and machinery, thereby increasing the bilateral trade between both countries to $20 billion by 2012-13 from $13 billion at present.

While Japan ranks 10th among India’s export destinations, India stands 26th among its export destinations.

India’s exports to Japan comprise mostly of raw materials, minerals, marine products, iron ore, handicrafts, cotton, carpets and leather garments. Its imports from that country include heavy machines, transport equipment and pharmaceuticals.