Development Agendas in a Changing World
Edited by Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz and Pedro Roffe
Biswajit Dhar and K.M. Gopakumar1 INTRODUCTION Since the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations were initiated, different authorities, stakeholders and interest groups in India have been analysing the issue of intellectual property rights. The accompanying debate has mostly focused on changes to the patent regime that the TRIPS Agreement would create and the implications that these changes would have on access to medicines. This debate has a historical basis in India. One of the first laws that the country took up for review after it became a sovereign state in 1947 was the patent law.2 Two expert groups examined the patent regime existing at that time and the Indian Parliament considered the findings in depth.3 The culmination of this process was the Patents Act of 1970, which is widely considered as the basis for the development of a strong pharmaceutical industry in India. The changes effected by the Patents Act of 1970 had at least three major implications for the pharmaceutical industry. In the first place, only process patents were allowed in the area of chemicals, which included pharmaceuticals. Second, the term of patent was reduced for process patents in pharmaceuticals. In all other areas the term of patent was fixed at 14 years from the date of application for the patent; for pharmaceuticals the term of patent was seven years from the date of application for a patent or five years from its date of grant, whichever was shorter. Lastly, instead of compulsory licences, a system of licences of...
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