Today's The Economic Times reports that India's patent law provisionally extends its protection today to cover a range of products from drugs and chemicals to mobile phone and computer software, in line with commitments to the World Trade Organization under the TRIPs treaty. Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said the amendment was made by presidential decree yesterday. The decree signals a breakthrough in patent reform, which had been stalled by concerns raised by communist allies of the ruling coalition and opposition parties, who wanted adequate safeguards to maintain price stability of life-saving medicines. Said Nath:
"The fear that prices of medicines will spiral is unfounded. [...] we must realise the fact that 97 percent of all drugs manufactured in India are off patent and so will remain unaffected".Up to now India has granted patents for processes but not for products. Nath added that he was confident of securing parliament's approval for the patent amendments in the budget session of parliament in February (under Indian law, the presidential decree has to be approved by parliament).
It is predicted that the change in India's patent law will spur domestic drug companies to look aggressively at developing new drug research themselves. By implementing the legal changes, Indian drug companies will be eligible to make generic drugs for booming export markets, where drugs worth billions of dollars are set to go off patent in the next few years, the minister said.
"Indian industry can grab a lion's share of this provided we are a bona fide member of the international trading community and are not in a questionable position, open to the possibility of retaliatory measures and sanctions. By participating in the international system of intellectual property protection, India unlocks for herself vast opportunities in both exports, as well as her potential to become a global hub in the area of research and development".
Indian inventivity: not just confined to the Chicken Vindaloo
The IPKat is delighted that India is putting its house in order and feels sure that its fast-growing, powerful drgus industry will soon benefit from the protection accorded to home-grown innovations. Merpel adds that TRIPs compliance will also provide a boost for local intellectual property lawyers, who can expect to pick up a good deal of non-contentious licensing and regulatory work in addition to the prospect of a boom in infringement litigation -- but will India's judicial system be able to handle it?Examples of Indian inventivity here, here and here