Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative released its annual Special 301 report which analyzes the state of intellectual property rights (IPR) among U.S. trading partners and also marks the first full review of India’s IPR regime since Prime Minister Modi took office. As in past reports, USTR once again placed India on the Priority Watch List due to ongoing concerns with the country’s lack of protections for innovators.
The report confirms that, despite ongoing dialogues and increasingly strong statements from Prime Minister Modi regarding his commitment to increasing protections for innovators in India, there has been no actual concrete action to improve IP protections. USTR expects ongoing dialogues to “bring about substantive and measurable improvements in India’s IPR regime for the benefit of a broad range of innovative and creative industries” and will “take further action, if necessary.”
As the NAM explained in its Special 301 comments filed in advance of the report, there are many areas where there has been dialogue, but no real improvement to India’s IPR policies including patent and data protection, compulsory licensing, and copyright piracy. This lack of progress and backward action in a number of areas from IPR to localization policies was also detailed just last week in the NAM’s pre pre-hearing statement filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission, which is conducting a second investigation into India’s trade and investment practices and their input on U.S. industries. These policy failures have a significant impact on businesses’ ability to innovate, create jobs, and grow the economy.
But businesses and industry leaders are not the only ones taking notice of India’s lack of progress in IPR and market-opening measures. India’s policies are impacting their global image as a country committed to innovation as reflected in India’s decline in various innovation and other measures. U.S. lawmakers are also taking note of the lack of concrete improvement in IPR in the country.
The NAM is committed to increasing commercial ties through a fair and more open trading relationship with India. To achieve that type of relationship – and for India to grow its economy and become the innovation leader it seeks to be – there must be more than talk and vague promises. It is time for India to take measures to bring its IPR regime up to global standards, to respect private property and innovation and seek to grow its economy through encouraging trade and investment.