There is a lack of experts in India looking into interdisciplinary patents, according to A D Damodaran, former Director of the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), which is a limitation that must be overcome whether it is for negotiating Trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreements, amending patent laws or pushing them through into Parliamentary discussions.
He was moderating an open seminar at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) here on Friday where Sunil Mani, programme co-ordinator at CDS, spoke on ‘TRIPS compliance of national patent regimes and domestic innovative activity: The Indian experience.’
Echoing Damodaran’s words, Mani also said that evidence-based policy research in India was very limited as he spoke about TRIPS compliance and its effects such as the impact of product patents on pharmaceutical prices.
India amended its Patent Act of 1970 for the third time in 2005 to comply with the international TRIPS agreement. Seven years after the third amendment, most of the literature on TRIPS focuses mostly on its effects on the pharmaceutical industry. According to Mani, three factors determined how patents impacted the pharmaceutical industry - the increase in the time taken to bring a new drug to the market, the decrease in success rates of bringing in a new drug and the increasing cost of R&D.
“There is a clear spike in the number of patents granted by the United States Patents Office to multinational companies (MNCs) working out of India since the compliance in the fields of telecommunications, semiconducting devices and information technology,” said Mani who, along with two colleagues from the IIM Kolkata, is working to gather quantitative data on R&D expenditure and number of patents of countries like India, China and Brazil.
While Indian pharmaceuticals hold a major share of pharmaceutical patents, Mani said they do not do enough research on neglected tropical diseases like malaria and dengue, which affect a large number of poor people living in developing or under-developed countries. Although the research on tropical diseases by the public sector in India seems to have increased over the past few years, the amount devoted to the same by the Planning Commission is very small, he added.