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India undermining intellectual property: Pfizer

Last updated on: March 14, 2013 14:40 IST

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Lalit K Jha in Washington

Months after its patent for a cancer medication was revoked by India, American firm Pfizer has told US lawmakers that New Delhi is undermining intellectual property by misuse of its compulsory licence provisions.

"We believe that India is undermining IP by misuse of its compulsory license provisions. Compulsory licenses are intended for use in extraordinary situations of extreme urgency or other national emergency," Roy F Waldron, chief intellectual property counsel of Pfizer Inc, told top US lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

Waldron alleged India has taken steps that call into question the sustainability of foreign investments and the ability to compete fairly.

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Image: Inset: Roy F Waldron, chief intellectual property counsel of Pfizer Inc.
Photographs: Jeff Christensen/Reuters

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India has essentially created a protectionist regime that harms US job creators.

"Despite being a member of the WTO and an important global trading partner, India has systematically failed to interpret and apply its IP laws in a manner consistent with recognised global standards," he said, adding that the Global IP Centre's International IP Index ranked India last in terms of overall IP protection.

Stating that in September last year, India revoked Pfizer's patent for a cancer medication, SUTENT, Waldron said this will now allow Indian generic companies to manufacture and sell generic copies of SUTENT long before the patent is set to expire.

He said recent reports indicate India has started the process of issuing compulsory licenses for the manufacture of three additional cancer medicines under a public emergency provision that sidesteps notice and public comment obligations.

"If left alone, this trend will destroy the market for innovative pharmaceuticals in India," he said.

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Since many countries look to India as a leader and an example, India's actions reverberate far beyond its borders, Waldron said, adding: "We have seen several countries adopt policies similar to India's, which are leading to a worldwide deteriorating trend on intellectual property rights."

Waldron urged the US government increase the frequency of talks with the Indian government and continue to raise concerns directly with Indian officials.

The US government should raise concerns at every available bilateral and multilateral forum to send a strong signal to the Indian government and to other governments that it does not condone these actions.

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Photographs: Francois Lenoir/Reuters
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Waldron urged Congressmen that the US government should review all available trade policy tools in light of the deteriorating IP environment.

"The US government should pursue a robust trade agenda that includes strong intellectual property protections, including robust provisions in the Trans-Pacific partnership agreement," he said.

"The acceleration of compulsory license policies has accelerated in the last year, so there is some urgency with respect to the frequency of talks that we have with the Indian government and to register our displeasure with the developments that have taken place there," he said.

The Pfizer executive warned lawmakers that if the US delays in taking up this issues with India resolving it, it could be too late for US companies.

"Essentially, if we wait too long, we may find ourselves in a situation where it's irremediable," he said.


Photographs: Reuters
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