08/05/09

India launches online petition for patent information

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[NEW DELHI] An Indian online forum dealing with intellectual property rights has launched a petition to Indian patent authorities, calling for more transparency in the country’s patent system and for information to be more easily accessible.

The online petition was launched this week (28 April). It follows an earlier petition submitted at the end of 2007 following which Indian patent authorities said that the complete database with searchable patent information, including patent specifications and decisions, would be available online by March 2009.

But the deadline was not been met, prompting the new petition, Shamnad Basheer — a professor in intellectual property law at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, who initiated the petition — told SciDev.Net.

The second petition calls for more patent-related information to be made public. This includes all correspondence between a patent applicant and the patent office; clear patent titles and abstracts; patent office circulars that impact patentability; corresponding patent applications elsewhere; and amendments made by the applicant from time to time to address issues raised by opponents challenging a patent.

A key piece of information being sought by the petition relates to ‘working’ statements — whether a firm that has been granted a patent for a drug is actually making the drug — which are supposed to be filed by the patentee with the Indian patent office. According to Indian patent laws a firm that has been granted a patent for a drug in India must also make it in India for the next three years. Otherwise the drug is eligible for compulsory licensing.

This information is often withheld while filing an application, says Basheer. "Since most of the drug patents in India are by MNCs [multinational corporations] and many of these patents are not ‘worked’ in India (the patented drug is not manufactured in India, but only imported into India), many of these patents become susceptible to compulsory licenses," he says. 

The groups are also requesting that the Indian government build public-private partnerships with the ICT sector in India to build a better e-filing system and other innovative ICT tools to aid a more efficient administration of the Indian patent office.

Basheer says the petition attracted 100 signatories after the first day, including patent attorneys, pharmaceutical companies, students from the Carnegie Mellon Institute and the Max Planck Institute, and global not-for-profit organisations such as the Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge that promotes technical assistance on IPR issues to governments, campaigns against unsound pharmaceutical patents and promotes access to drugs. 

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