The domestic pharmaceutical industry and non-government organisations are up in arms against the first ever Indo-US tie-up on intellectual property rights signed last month, alleging it contains "ambiguous" clauses that could go against the spirit of Indian patent law.
The agreement was signed by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks and the United States Patent and Trademark Office in December 2006.
What has irked the protestors most are the claims made by USPTO that the "historic MoU on bilateral cooperation on IP" allows USPTO to "help train Indian patent and trademark examiners, develop education material for examiners and produce a manual on patent practice for use by Indian examiners and the public".
The USPTO communique, published on its website, also talks about the work to be "carried forward with action plans that will establish specific areas for cooperation over a renewable two-year period."
The Indian public interest groups feel that the patent manual, being the operational guideline meant to help assess the strength of each patent application, should be prepared without any external help.
"The USPTO, a profit-making body that implements a totally different patent system, should not be allowed to teach Indian patent officials on what to patent and what not to patent." Leena Menghaney of Medicines Sans Frontiers, an international medical humanitarian organisation, told Business Standard.
She felt that it would allow US interests to "influence the decision making powers of Indian patent offices". Domestic pharmaceutical industry representatives were also apprehensive of the specific clause. However, they refused to make official comments before seeing the pact.
However, senior officials of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, found no substance in the allegations.
"The agreements have not included any of the sensitive issues relating to policy, legislation and enforcement of IPR laws within the purview of the MoUs. We have also signed a similar agreement with the European Patent Office for cooperation in capacity building, human resource development and public awareness programmes in the area of intellectual property rights," they clarified.The MoU calls for the setting up of a joint consultative mechanism to draw up annual action plans and to oversee their implementation for facilitating the exchange of views on any point of interest for the two parties.