July 10, 2020

IP review for India

The United States has resisted lobbying by U.S. businesses to take tougher trade action against India for its intellectual property policies, deciding against risking ties with a likely new government in New Delhi.

The U.S. Trade Representative avoided labeling India with the worst offender tag in its annual scorecard on protecting U.S. patents, copyrights and other intellectual property (IP) rights.

Instead, the United States kept India, which is in the midst of elections, on its Priority Watch List along with China and eight other countries. It would start a special review of India in the fall and “redouble” efforts to address concerns with the new government, the U.S. Trade Representative said.

A USTR official said the purpose of the review was to assess the new government’s level of engagement and the USTR was not contemplating a change in India’s status in 2014. A new process would start in 2015, he added, and stakeholders could give their input.

“Labeling India as a Priority Foreign Country just as a new government comes to power would have meant that relations would start off on the wrong foot, but the potential penalty which would be levied against India will now hang over bilateral relations,” said Center for Strategic and International Studies adjunct fellow Persis Khambatta.

Some were disappointed that the USTR failed to name India as a “priority foreign country” – a label that can eventually lead to trade sanctions or the loss of trade benefits – although others stressed it was not off the hook yet.

Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and one of four top lawmakers who ordered an investigation into Indian trade policies last year, said the country was a “textbook example” of poor practices regarding intellectual property.

“A stronger response is required to dissuade other countries from adopting similar policies,” he said in a statement.

Even so, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Of America (PhRMA), which had both wanted India named as a top offender, welcomed the special review.

“Such a review provides a needed avenue for constructive engagement with the incoming Indian government on how to resolve the deteriorating IP environment in India,” PhRMA President John Castellani said.

Intellectual property lawyer Steven Tepp, the president of consultancy Sentinel Worldwide, said the planned special review allowed the USTR to change India’s ranking and should tell the Indian government the issue needed “urgent attention”.

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