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Make in India: A strong IPR framework vital for the health care sector


Over the past two years, the health care sector has experienced drastic changes with the emergence of innovative business approaches, unforeseen alliances, and faster deliveries, requiring organizations to actively participate in developing, accelerating, and broadening their innovation efforts. Today, the health care and pharmaceutical industries are in a race against time for technological breakthroughs to develop effective vaccines and treatments for diseases that are impacting human lives. However, for the continued innovation in the development of medicines, the protection of ideas and innovations through intellectual property rights (IPR) is vital in the interests of patients and the society at large. The protection of scientific and technological innovations encourages not only researchers but also the corporate world to find treatment avenues with new and improved medications, thus reducing mortality and improving the quality of life of patients.

IPR has an enormous impact on both national and state markets. Almost all industries, including healthcare, count on effective enforcement of their patents, trademarks, and copyrights. On the other hand, consumers derive the benefit of purchasing safe and certified products.

IPR helps in fostering innovation and business ideas, helps in raising funds from private investors, and provides protection for global breakthroughs. Around 300 products, named on the Essential Drug List of the World Health Organization (WHO), were developed in the research and development (R&D)-intensive pharmaceutical industry that is subjected to patent protections. These drugs are essential for saving or improving people’s lives globally. By striking a balance between the welfare of innovators and the larger public interest, the IPR aims to cultivate and nurture an ecosystem where creativity and innovation co-inhabit.

The Indian pharmaceutical industry has been on an ascending growth curve. It is valued at $ 42 billion worldwide and is expected to reach $ 120-130 billion by 2030. Over the last two decades, the unparalleled growth of the Indian pharma sector has been led by producing high-quality drugs at low cost, improved infrastructure, and investment in R&D and innovation. The sector has turned into a major manufacturer and exporter of medicines and vaccines. These innovations have the potential to provide easy healthcare access through various alliances and joint ventures and must essentially be protected through IPRs.

Protection of IP helps healthcare companies recover their investments and continue to invest in new research projects. The government has ramped up efforts to build a strong IPR framework. The National IPR Policy 2016 was adopted as a vision to facilitate the impending development of IPRs in the country. The policy aims to incorporate and adapt global best practices in India by setting up an institutional system for implementation, monitoring, and review. In the past 11 years, India has witnessed a double growth of trademark registrations, with 256,000 industrial trademarks registered in 2021 alone.

At a recent event, Amit Khare, advisor to Prime Minister Modi said, “As we are a 100-year-old civilisation, we have past knowledge and can develop it and test it empirically with the help of institutions like IITs. On the need for the country to become a superpower in IP, we are an IT superpower, but we need to be a superpower in IP because knowledge is power.”

However, some limitations continue to exist. India lags in patent filing compared to other countries due to restrictions on biopharmaceutical patentability and the absence of vital IPRs like regulatory data protection, incentives for orphan drug development, and patent term restoration.

The health care market in India is constantly expanding due to a change in lifestyle and high demand for quality healthcare, making this sector one of the promising contributors to the Indian economy. The regulatory policies need to be improved, especially in the area of patent and price control. By facilitating education about IPRs, we can generate more awareness that would ultimately help in boosting partnerships among industries, academia, and the government. IPR is a valuable tool in today’s time and with proper enforcement, there can be a significant improvement in India’s research standards in health and medicine to bridge unmet needs.

The article has been authored by Patrick Kilbride, senior vice-president, Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) at the US Chamber of Commerce.


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