Speaking at a hearing before the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Roy Waldron of Pfizer argued that India’s intellectual property laws favoured local industries at the expense of international companies. He pointed to the recent revocation of his company’s patent for cancer drug sutent as evidence of an increasingly protectionist IP regime. According to Waldron, the situation has worsened and is discouraging international investment in India.
Waldron also criticised India’s likely increasing use of compulsory licences, even though he claims that Pfizer is “more than willing to discuss viable solutions to increase access to quality medicines”.
Waldron’s comments reflect growing concerns about patent rights in India. Last week, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) upheld the country’s first compulsory licence issued for Bayer's sorafenib. In an interview with Managing IP, IPAB Chairperson Prabha Sridevan defended the board’s decision, calling compulsory licensing a “balanced approach” to protecting the interests of rights holders and the general public.
“Compulsory licences are not a denigration of the owner’s rights,” she argued. “The patent rights are intact until the patent is invalidated.”The Indian government has indicated that more compulsory licences are almost certainly coming. While the sorafenib compulsory licence was issued under section 84 of the Patent Act, which requires an application from a generic manufacturer, the government itself recently initiated proceedings for three more compulsory licences. The Department of Pharmaceuticals, which initiated the proceedings, relied on section 92, which allows the government to issue compulsory licences in the case of “national emergency or in circumstances of extreme urgency”.
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