In­dia Must Build In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty

With­out it, Make in In­dia will not mean much

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

April 26 is World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Day. For most In­di­ans, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty is a com­bi­na­tion of Pierre-Joseph Proud­hon and Robin Hood. The French an­ar­chist fa­mously de­clared prop­erty to be theft. In­di­ans, few of whom put in the hard slog re­quired to cre­ate in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, read­ily agree, and are ea­ger to do to the own­ers of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty what Robin Hood did to the rich. Karl Marx, no fan of prop­erty him­self, pro­nounced Proud­hon to be con­fused: you can steal some­thing only if it al­ready be­longs to some­one, mean­ing prop­erty must pre­cede theft and so can­not be theft. In­di­ans are equally wrong to dis­re­spect in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

It is not enough to be for­mally com­pli­ant with global regimes on in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights. In­dia is WTO­com­pli­ant on the sub­ject. And its patent law’s Sec­tion 3(d), re­quir­ing a novel form of a patent-pro­tected mol­e­cule to show im­proved ther­a­peu­tic ef­fi­cacy for it to se­cure a sep­a­rate patent, is a model for the rest of the world, even if multi­na­tional pharma hates it. The prob­lem in pharma is con­fined to a trig­ger-happy at­ti­tude to­wards com­pul­sory li­cens­ing that es­chews room for ne­go­ti­ated price re­duc­tions backed up with bulk pur­chase com­mit­ments or­ches­trated by the govern­ment. The emerg­ing prob­lem area is elec­tron­ics, par­tic­u­larly tele­com. In­dian com­pa­nies glibly dis­re­gard the need to li­cense tech­nolo­gies, lead­ing to le­gal dis­putes with patent hold­ers. The larger prob­lem is con­sis­tent fail­ure by In­dian firms to carry our re­search and de­vel­op­ment (R&D) that would cre­ate in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. Trade, tar­iff and tax poli­cies that dis­cour­age gen­uine do­mes­tic value ad­di­tion and in­cen­tivise mas­querad­ing trade as man­u­fac­ture, are to blame as well.

For Make in In­dia to be some­thing more sub­stan­tive than sim­ple assem­bly of com­plex parts pro­duced else­where, In­dia has to fo­cus on do­mes­tic R&D and cre­ation of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. Over­haul of univer­sity fund­ing and fo­cus, le­gal clar­ity on and pro­tec­tion of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and ra­tio­nal trade and tar­iff pol­icy — ac­tion is called for on mul­ti­ple fronts.

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