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|March 10, 1999||
Lok Sabha passes Patents Amendment Bill
The Patents (Amendment) Bill, 1998, seeking to facilitate product patenting for pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals as mandated by the World Trade Organisation, secured parliamentary approval today when the Lok Sabha passed it by a voice vote after the Left parties, Janata Dal and National Democratic Front walked out.
Industries Minister Sikandar Bakht, who piloted the bill, assured the House that it would not in any way hurt the country's interests because all necessary safeguards had been incorporated in the bill.
The Rajya Sabha had passed the Bill on December 22, 1998, during the winter session of Parliament. But the Lok Sabha could not take it up for lack of time.
The government then issued an ordinance to amend the Patents Act, 1970, though the deadline for putting the legislation in place as stipulated by the WTO's appellate body is April 19, 1999.
Bakht pointed out that about 3,000 applications for product patents had piled up, pending passage of the legislation.
But there was no application for exclusive marketing rights, which India was to allow till all legislative formalities connected with the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS), which is part of the WTO, are completed.
With the TRIPS agreement, India has to move from process patenting to product patenting. Minimum standards have to be adopted by all member countries of the WTO in eight areas relating to intellectual property being safeguarded through patenting.
The minister pointed out that India, which entered the WTO on January 1, 1995, had a five-year transition period for switching over from process patenting to product patenting. He said it is necessary to accommodate product-patenting applications on drugs and agro-chemicals.
The earlier attempt to complete the process of legislation was aborted by the premature dissolution of the last Lok Sabha. This resulted in the United States filing a trade dispute at the WTO, saying the lack of a product-patenting law in India affected its drug and farm chemicals industry. The WTO ruled that India should complete the opening-up process by April 19.
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