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Letter to Modi: Why the new Indo-US ‘bilateralism’ on intellectual property?

31 October 2014

Letter to the Prime Minister:
Why the new Indo-US ‘Bilateralism’ on Intellectual Property?

Several organisations and individuals from across India have collectively sent a letter to the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, expressing their concerns on the Joint Working Group on Intellectual Property (IP) set up between India and the United States of America. The announcement for this bilateral arrangement had come during the Prime Minister’s maiden official visit to USA. (See the paragraph on ‘Economic Growth’ in the US-India Joint Statement dated 30 September 2014, full text here:

The letter expresses their anguish on the decision to establish the Working Group. The letter urges the Prime Minister to approach the IP issue with a “holistic perspective that it warrants, rather than the official approach being subsumed by the relatively narrow confines of trade and economic policy”. The letter also requests the Prime Minister “to take a personal interest in this important matter”, as IP affects basic needs such as food, medicine and education, etc. which are not trade issues.

Further, the letter cautions that “bilateralism in the area of IP must be approached with an extremely high degree of caution”, particularly when it comes to USA. The US administration and its trade negotiators are notorious for demanding IP standards that go well the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s IP agreement, namely TRIPS.

It is important to recall that in the multilateral system WTO (where US had initiated proceedings against India on the IP issue at the Dispute Settlement Body in 1996, within a year of WTO coming into force in 1995) and outside it unilaterally (through its ‘Priority Watch List’ and Out-of-Cycle Review under its Trade Act of 1974), USA continues to exert pressures on countries that it sees as IP offenders.

The people’s letter makes the following specific requests on IP to the Prime Minister:

 To make public the specific purpose of the joint Working Group on IP
 To maintain the GoI’s stand of non-cooperation with any unilateral measures by the US Government on this front
 To refrain from going ahead with the proposed bilateral annual forum on IP, particularly in the absence of a domestic process on IP issues
 To pursue an inclusive public consultation approach for the formulation of India’s IP Policy, a process which is underway within the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry
 To maintain the flexibilities in the various domestic IP statutes and not to amend any of the IP statutes in order to reduce the scope of flexibilities
 To reach out to the like-minded countries to not only build a coalition to resist such pressures from US and other developed countries, but also to be able to continue to supply cheaper generic medicines to low & middle income countries
 To support local innovations, that offer more sustainable options for the future – such as climate-adaptive seeds.

For further information:

Dr Dinesh Abrol, Convenor, National Working Group on Patent Laws (NWGPL),
E-mail: , Cell: +91 9650365397

Ms Shalini Bhutani, Legal Researcher & Policy Analyst,
E-mail:, Cell: +91 9810433076

Mr K M Gopakumar, Third World Network (TWN),
E-mail: , Cell: +91 9899976104

Letter to PM