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April 26, 2024

USTR Keeps India in IP Watchlist, Cites Patents as Major Concern

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has upheld India’s position in the ‘Priority Watchlist’, affirming it as one of the world’s most challenging nations concerning the protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights. Particularly, patents continue to be a significant concern in India, alongside six other countries including China, Russia, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela.

At the 14th ministerial-level meeting of the India-United States Trade Policy Forum (TPF) held in January, discussions revolved around India’s initiatives to modernize its patent system. The forum also exchanged ideas on patent, copyright, and trademark issues. Despite these discussions, the USTR noted that India’s patent system remains a point of concern.

However, there is a glimmer of hope as India finalizes the Patents (Amendments) Rules, 2024. These amendments are poised to alleviate long-standing burdens on patent applicants by introducing changes to pre-grant opposition procedures, updating reporting forms for patent working, and reducing reporting time for foreign applications.

“The United States will closely monitor the implementation, including with respect to Form 27, and encourages India to continue progressing with these reform efforts to reduce patent pendency times and enhance the patent system for all users,” stated the USTR in its annual Special 301 report, which reviews the global state of IP protection and enforcement.

Despite India’s efforts to strengthen its IP regime and raise public awareness about the significance of IP, the USTR highlighted a lack of progress on many long-standing IP concerns raised in prior reports. India’s customs duties, particularly on IP-intensive products like ICT products, solar energy equipment, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and capital goods, have been singled out as obstacles to access to technologies.

Pharmaceutical stakeholders in the US have expressed concerns regarding India’s mechanism for early resolution of potential pharmaceutical patent disputes, questioning its effectiveness. Furthermore, the USTR has criticized India’s overall IP enforcement as inadequate, citing trademark counterfeiting as a persistent issue.

“US brand owners continue to report excessive delays in trademark opposition proceedings and a lack of quality in examination,” the report pointed out. Although initiatives by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) have reduced trademark application examination time to less than 30 days, right holders remain worried about examination quality and the backlog in trademark opposition proceedings.

In conclusion, while India has made strides in strengthening its IP regime and engaging with the US on IP issues, there’s still work to be done. The USTR’s retention of India in the IP watchlist underscores the importance of continued efforts to address patent concerns and improve IP enforcement for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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