Novartis case: Anand Sharma defends India’s patent regime, advocates affordable healthcare solutions

NEW DELHI: A week after the Supreme Court rejected Swiss pharma firm Novartis’ patent plea for Glivec, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma on Monday strongly defended India’s decision not to give patent protection to the drug at the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva.

Novartis case: Anand Sharma defends India's patent regime, advocates affordable healthcare solutionsNovartis case: Anand Sharma defends India’s patent regime, advocates affordable healthcare solutions

Sharma said developing countries bear a disproportionate burden of poverty, hunger and disease and, therefore, must be provided with inherent flexibilities in its international obligations to provide affordable healthcare solutions for their citizens.

Sharma dubbed the Indian intellectual property (IP) regime robust and said it balances the interests of innovators and the users who benefit from the innovations.

“On the one hand of the spectrum are companies who have invested billions in research, in developing new molecules, in new drug discoveries and in research. On the other hand is the compelling social need of providing affordable healthcare for,” he noted.

Sharma added that the Indian law fosters technological innovation by providing inherent sops via exclusive private Intellectual Property Rights, but also recognizes the need to protect the interest of users’ rights.

Last week, Switzerland-based NovartisBSE 0.01 % lost a long drawn legal battle for patent of its anti-cancer drug Glivec, as Supreme Court rejected its appeal against Indian patent office and lower court rulings denying the company patent on its Leukemia drug.

The apex court held that the plea violated section 3(d) of Indian Patent Act, which bars companies from making minor changes in existing patented drugs to keep extending the patent, called as evergreening.

Sharma also submitted the Instrument of Accession to the Madrid Protocol, which will provide an opportunity for Indian companies to register trademarks in member countries of the protocol through a single application while also allowing foreign companies the same facility in India.

“This will considerably help in simplification and easing the process of trade mark registrations in India,” a statement released by the government said. India is the 14th G-20 economy to accede to the Madrid Protocol. WIPO Director GeneralFrancis Gurry said “India’s participation in the Madrid system gives brand owners around the world the ability to extend their protection to the important Indian market, through a single, simplified and cost-effective procedure”.

The treaty will come into force with respect to India on July 8. Sharma also sought a binding treaty in to protect intellectual property associated with genetic resources, traditional knowledge.”India has been at the forefront for bringing this agenda on the negotiating table…I hope that WIPO shall be able to bring these negotiations to culmination,” he said.

The minister does his homework in …

Anand Sharman was among the first top government functionaries to cheer the apex court judgment. However, as global reactions poured in, he must have anticipated that his impending visit to Switzerland ahead in the month wouldn’t be free of friction. He dug deep into the resources and database of Indian patent office for six days before he was to leave for Switzerland, sources told ET. “The minister wanted to know how many product patents multinationals have been granted post 2005 and how many of them belonged to Novartis,” a government official said.

…Anticipating some difficult questions

As chance would have it, Anand Sharma, who is slated to meet a mix of top policymakers and corporate bigwigs during his Geneva trip, is also scheduled to face top brass of Novartis in one of the events. In an investment roundtable, to be held at Intercontinental Geneva, Christopher Snook, Group Head, country management, Novartis, would be sitting among the participants keen to hear out the Indian minister and probably shoot questions as well. Snook is responsible for driving global corporate objectives in all Novartis country organizations.


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