Context and Ambiguity: A Comment on Amending India’s Patent Act
Abstract: In implementing its patent-related obligations to the TRIPS Agreement, India decided to use the optional additional transitional provisions in Article 65(4). Thus, delaying the introduction of product patents in exempt technologies, notably pharmaceuticals, till 1 January 2005. Ostensibly, this gave it the opportunity to exploit changing circumstances to and emergent views on TRIPS-implementation; in particular exploring new interpretations to residual flexibility in TRIPS and any continuing legal ambiguity in TRIPS obligations. In terms of the latter, the Panel Report in Canada – Patent Protection of Pharmaceutical Products is pertinent in having exhibited rare reticence in stepping back from defining the principle of non-discrimination in Article 27(1), TRIPS Agreement. While maintaining legal ambiguity, this reticence also provides space for law-making and regulatory diversity. The article reviews the three amendments to India’s Patent Act, 1970 and finds mixed use of residual flexibility and some evidence of efforts to explore legal ambiguity. Thus, despite a favourable climate to TRIPS implementation and an active transnational access to medicine campaign, legislators in India have demonstrated a degree of caution. The article concludes that this caution is best explained in terms of deepening ambivalence concerning intellectual property within the government and the changing economic interests of sections of Indian pharma.
Key words: TRIPS Agreement, India, patent reform, Canada, pharmaceutical industry, generics.
Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation (CSGR)
University of Warwick