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USTR retains India in IP watchlist; MedTech, pharma industry face heat

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has retained India in the ‘Priority Watchlist’ and said that the country remains one of the world’s ‘most challenging’ with respect to protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights, and patent issues continue to be of particular concern in India.

Six other countries such as China, Russia, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela continue to remain in the list.

The 14th ministerial-level meeting of the India-United States Trade Policy Forum (TPF) in January saw discussions on India’s efforts to modernise its patent system and exchanged ideas on other patent, copyright, and trademark issues.

However, it also pointed out that India has finalised the Patents (Amendments) Rules, 2024 that have the ‘potential to reduce long-standing burdens on patent applicants’.

The amendments will include changes to the procedures for pre-grant oppositions, an update to the reporting form for patent working, and decreased reporting time for reporting foreign applications.

“The United States will monitor the implementation, including with respect to Form 27, and encourages India to continue moving forward with these and other reform efforts to reduce patent pendency times and improve the patent system for all users,” USTR said in its Special 301 report is an annual review of the global state of IP protection and enforcement.

It also said that although India has worked to strengthen its IP regime, including raising public awareness about the importance of IP, and engagement with the US on IP issues has increased, there continues to be a lack of progress on many long-standing IP concerns raised in prior Special 301 Reports.

“Despite India’s justifications of limiting IP protections as a way to promote access to technologies, India maintains high customs duties directed to IP-intensive products such as information and communications technology (ICT) products, solar energy equipment, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and capital goods,” it said.

Pharmaceutical stakeholders in the US have expressed concerns as to whether India has an effective mechanism for the early resolution of potential pharmaceutical patent disputes.

The trade agency has alleged that India’s overall IP enforcement remains inadequate and trademark counterfeiting continues to remain problematic.

“US brand owners continue to report excessive delays in trademark opposition proceedings and a lack of quality in examination. Initiatives taken by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) reduced trademark application examination to less than 30 days, but right holders remain concerned with trademark examination quality and the trademark opposition proceedings backlog,” the report pointed out. Business Standard

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