Protecting Intellectual Property

Engagement with India on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) continues, primarily through the Trade Policy Forum’s Working Group on Intellectual Property. In 2016, India released its comprehensive National IP Policy, with its primary focus being on awareness and building administrative capacity. The portfolio of Copyright and Semi-Conductors shifted to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce. The Cell of IP Promotion and Management (CIPAM) was set up and is tasked with implementing the IP Policy and interagency coordination. In 2016, the state of Telangana set up India’s first IP Crime Unit, to combat the menace of internet piracy. The Commercial Courts of two states became functional and industry saw some positives decisions coming on the patent front. The US Government enhanced its engagement and conducted two workshops with Government of India, one on Copyright and one on Trade Secrets. In addition, the Patent Rules as well as the Trademark Rules were amended. The Copyright Board was merged with the IP Appellate Board. The Indian Patent Office hired 458 examiners to address the issue of patent and trademark backlog. Pharmaceutical and agro-chemical products can be patented in India.  Plant varieties are protected by the Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act.  However, the interpretation and application of the patent law lacks clarity, especially with regard to several important areas such as compulsory licenses, pre-grant opposition provisions, and the scope of patentable inventions (e.g., whether patents are limited to new chemical entities rather than incremental innovation). Indian law does not protect against the unfair commercial use of test data or other data submitted to the government during the application for market approval of pharmaceutical or agro-chemical products.  The Pesticides Management Bill (2008), which would allow data protection of agricultural chemical provisions, stalled in the previous Parliament. The Designs Act allows for the registration of industrial designs.  The Designs Rules, which detail classification of design, conform to the international system and are intended to take care of the proliferation of design-related activities in various fields.  India’s Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Designs Act is based on standards developed by WIPO. Customs officers have ex-officio authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods, though rights holders must pay for storage and destruction of counterfeit materials. In the past few years, with regular training customs and police enforcement has marginally increased. The new customs recordation system allows trademark owners to record their brands and trademarks with the ministry and seek affirmative action in case of any counterfeit issue at the ports.