India at an IP Crossroads


By Jasper MacSlarrow

In 2010, then President Pratibha Patil declared the next 10 years to be India’s “Decade of Innovation.” And just this past weekend, the current President echoed the same message, specifically calling on industry to pull the economy up by the boot straps and invest in research and development and high-tech innovation. Unfortunately, the rhetoric does not match India’s  recent actions.

Once a shining example for economic opportunity, local policymakers and the judiciary have puzzlingly set India on a course that has left the innovative industries unsettled. Earlier this week, the GIPC joined Former U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation’s (ITIF) Senior Analyst Stephen Ezell, and Third Way’s Senior Fellow for Trade Ed Gerwin in an event to discuss the ramifications of India’s rapidly deteriorating intellectual property (IP) environment.

As GIPC executive vice president Mark Elliot pointed out, in the last year, momentum in India towards innovation seems to have reversed. Between the rash of court cases invalidating internationally-recognized patents, weak copyright legislation, and lax IP enforcement, foreign industry is beginning to reconsider its options: “Unlike in the past in India, this isn’t the case of a one-off instance, but rather a pattern of behavior that indicates the IP climate in India has deteriorated significantly.”

This path forward is, indeed, actually a path backward, as Stephen Ezell also noted: “It’s clear that these are not random occurrences and when taken together, they represent a concerted industrial policy intended to restrict foreign competition and boost domestic production in India’s manufacturing and IP-intensive industries.”

India’s weak IP rights are scaring off foreign investment. With over 55 million American jobs that support 74% of exports and 1/3 of GDP relying on IP, our IP-intensive economy can’t afford to be tied to the whims Indian mercantilist policy.

Most frustrating, perhaps, is that India is squandering its own opportunity and hampering the potential of local entrepreneurs. Just last week, The Economist featured a piece questioning why India is losing the grip on its seemingly vibrant future:

“Social peace is no bad thing. But India could do with a sense of urgency about the reforms needed to generate jobs and rejuvenate politics. “India’s century” is not an inevitability. It is a giant opportunity that India is in danger of squandering.”

We steadfastly believe that India still has the potential to become an economic powerhouse. With an economy and population of its size, it serves both domestic and international interests that India succeed. If hundreds of years of economic history is any indication, true success is driven by innovation, creation, and productivity. In the modern economy, intellectual property rights are essential to making that a reality.

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