September 29, 2014

India’s Rising Tide of Innovation

By Kelly Anderson

A rising tide lifts all boats, according to the old adage.  And with a population of over 1.25 billion people, when at last the tide of economic growth rises in India, it will be quite powerful. Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, the crescendo is swelling on the issue of IP in India, bringing with it the twin promise of innovation and investment.

In the two weeks leading up to the Prime Minister’s visit, we have heard from both industry and government officials from the U.S. and India about the need for dialogue about India’s IP and innovation system.

Following his historic election, Prime Minister Modi voiced his hopes to strengthen India’s economy, attract greater foreign direct investment, and create an environment which compels companies to “Make in India.” Strong IP protections will be key to achieving each of these goals, and this is exactly what we’ve heard from an ever-widening chorus of voices ahead of the Prime Minister’s U.S. visit. The Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo India, D. Shivakumar, recently noted about the ways that innovation will give India a “sustainable advantage” in the coming years. Similarly, PhRMA President and Chief Executive Officer, John Castellani, spoke about the need for IP protections in order to support the innovative pipeline, noting:

“We are committed to collaborating with the Indian government to ensure that access to new medicines is underpinned by a robust environment that promotes clinical research and patent protection. Secure intellectual property (IP) protections, consistently enforced, are aligned with Prime Minister Modi’s goals of bringing growth to India through research, innovation, and manufacturing.”

But we’re not just hearing from industry; the Obama Administration has chimed in, too. Recently, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Wendy Cutler traveled to India and highlighted the need for a dialogue with India on IP issues, particularly as the U.S. and Indian governments seek to reinvigorate the Trade Policy Forum in the coming months. In particular, Ms. Cutler pressed for the creation of a Cabinet-level working group to discuss IP concerns.

This rising tide of voices seems to have caught the government’s attention. Just last week, the Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the Indian government plans to craft an overarching IP policy in the coming months. Critical to the success of this IP policy will be a principled commitment to the protection of patent, copyright, and trademark rights in India. An inclusion of such a guarantee would send a clear signal to the world that India takes seriously the need for strong IP protections in order to foster an innovative environment and promote economic growth.

India only stands to benefit from a more robust IP system. Raising India’s IP policies to conform with global standards can propel Indian innovative companies into the 21st century global economy. As Prime Minister Modi prepares to meet with President Obama on Tuesday, we urge the Indian government to listen to the chorus of voices calling for stronger IP protection and commit to both a substantive dialogue with the U.S. and a commitment to updating India’s IP policy to protect both India’s innovators and investors alike.

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