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IPR Improvements Earn India Reprieve from Further U.S. Action

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative declined this week to take further action against India under the Special 301 intellectual property rights enforcement process, a decision that drew disapproval from the incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

In its annual Special 301 report published in April, USTR placed India on the priority watch list and said it would conduct an out-of-cycle review to evaluate India’s progress toward achieving meaningful, sustained and effective engagement on IPR issues. USTR has now concluded its OCR and states that in recent months India has made “useful commitments,” including to institutionalize high-level engagement on IPR issues, pursue a specific work program and deepen cooperation and information exchange on IPR-related issues under the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum.

Although USTR did not say so explicitly, it is apparently sufficiently pleased with this progress that no further action will be taken at this time. Instead, the agency urged India to further strengthen and deepen bilateral engagement on IPR issues in the coming months and beyond and said the next formal opportunity for a thorough review of India’s environment for IPR protection and enforcement will be as part of the 2015 Special 301 review process.

However, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who will chair the Senate Finance Committee starting in January, responded to the OCR results by criticizing the Obama administration for a “lack of concrete action against India’s blatant disregard for the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights.” Hatch said USTR should have used the review to develop a meaningful and effective action plan with definitive timetables for implementation.

Others were wary of USTR’s announcement as well. “India seems to have conceded something that led to the conclusion of the OCR,” D.G. Shah, secretary-general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, was quoted as saying in a Business Standard article. “Either the USTR is misleading its constituency or we do not know what is promised by the commerce minister. What is certain is a lack of transparency.” The article also cited Patrick Kilbride, executive director for international IPR policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, as expressing hope that “the valuable engagement that is now underway will translate into real policy change that will allow IP to flourish in India and enable investors and innovators to commit to India’s market for the long term.”

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