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US places India yet again on IPR ‘priority watch’ list

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On April 28, 2017, office of United States Trade Representative (USTR) released 2017 edition of ‘Special 301 Report’. In this report, India has once again been placed in the ‘Priority Watch List’ for not providing adequate protection to Intellectual property Rights (IPR).

  • Besides India, other countries that have been placed in this year’s ‘Priority Watch List’ are: China, Indonesia, Thailand, Algeria, Russia, Ukraine, Kuwait, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela.

About USTR, Special 301 Report and Priority Watch List:

Office of the United States Trade Representative(USTR) is a government agency of United States (US), which is entrusted with the responsibility to formulate and recommend foreign trade policy to President of US. It also conducts bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations for US Govt.

  • It annually prepares Special 301 Report that identifies countries which do not provide “adequate and effective” protection of intellectual property rights and “fair and equitable 2017 edition of ‘Special 301 Report’market access” to US entities relying on IPR protection.
  • The Special Report 301 has three classifications viz. Priority Foreign Country, Priority Watch List and Watch List.
  • ‘Priority Foreign Country’ is the most extreme classification which includes countries that out rightly deny IPR protection and fair and equitable market access. Countries placed in this list could be subjected to sanctions by US Govt.
  • ‘Priority Watch List’ includes countries where current IPR regulation has serious deficiencies and requires active monitoring by USTR.
  • ‘Watch List’ includes countries which have IPR regulation deficiencies but have yet not been placed in ‘Priority Watch List’.

Concern Areas highlighted by US:

  • So far, India has not taken steps to resolve patent issues that are affecting innovative industries including the application of narrow patentability criteria and restrictive guidelines for patenting of computer implemented inventions.
  • US has raised objections to Section 3 (d) of India’s Patent Act, under which patent is denied to items that are not significantly different from their older versions.
  • Indian laws do not have effective system to prevent unfair commercial use in pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical industry.
  • India has not yet joined important Intellectual Property (IP) related international agreements such as the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) Internet Treaties and the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks.

India’s Viewpoint:

India has categorically rejected the listings in the Special 301 report and has termed it as a unilateral report of the US government. Union Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has mentioned that India’s IPR laws are fully compliant with the global IP agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).