Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Mar 11, 2005
Industry & Economy - Pharmaceuticals
Foreign nations lobbying PMO for favourable patents law
New Delhi , March 10
REPRESENTATIVES from both the developed and the developing world are knocking at the doors of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in a bid to make the Patent (Amendment) Ordinance, 2004 favourable to their countries' requirements.
After the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the Washington lobby representing US drug manufacturers, met officials of the PMO; heads of Latin American and African countries are appealing to the Indian Government to ensure that drugs are available and affordable.
In fact, the African Union comprising over 44 member-countries, in a declaration signed at the end of its recent meeting at Ethiopia has also flagged off the issue of access to generic drugs especially from India. The Chairperson is expected to take up the issue with the Indian Government shortly.
In fact, a meeting between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Chemicals and Petrochemicals and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the PMO is expected to take place soon.
While the developed countries have been seeking a broader definition of patentability and tightening of compulsory licensing norms, the developing and least developed countries are lobbying against this. This has prompted the PMO to look at several contentious provisions in the Patents law.
According to sources, "The PMO is looking at the section pertaining to definition of invention. There is a demand to tighten the definition of patentability to prevent evergreening."
Similarly, it is also looking at the possibility of strengthening the pre-grant opposition. Under the existing law, challengers would only be able to submit in writing or make personal representations but would not be able to argue it out.
It is examining the compulsory licensing clauses including doing away with the three-year lock-in period by when the patent would have to be worked. Also, there is demand for reviewing the clauses related to invoking compulsory licensing during a national emergency.
They further said that it is important for India to retain the goodwill of Latin American and African countries in other World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations. "If India can take these countries along in issues related to public health and access to medicines, then it can expect support in other critical issues," sources said. Meanwhile, efforts are on to get the Left parties to support the Government on the Patents Ordinance. The Left has been opposing several of the provisions (mentioned above) and is also demanding that the legislation be thoroughly debated in Parliament before it is enacted as a Bill.
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