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National IPR Policy Series : India's National IPR Policy - What Would WIPO Think?

Posted by Nehaa Chaudhari at Jun 20, 2015 03:35 PM |
As part of the National IPR Policy Series, CIS is evaluating how India's National IPR Policy framework and process holds up to WIPO's suggestions. In this note, Varun Baliga and Nehaa Chaudhari examine in particular, the functioning of the IPR Think Tank and the first draft of the National Policy in light of the WIPO framework and the principles it encapsulates.

This note is a brief overview of the approach set out by the World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO") for the development of National IPR Strategies by various countries. This note also compares WIPO's approach to the approach adopted by the IPR Think Tank ("Think Tank") in the formulation of India's National IPR Policy This note is only an academic exercise and is not to be construed as a recommendation of the procedure set out by WIPO for the development of National IPR Policies/Strategies.

An Overview of WIPO's Approach

WIPO's suggested model of a National IPR Policy operates at three levels - The Process, Baseline Questionnaire and Benchmarking Indicators. [1] On process, WIPO suggests an 8-step procedure in developing a National IP Strategy that lays clear emphasis on both continuous consultation and methodological rigour in data collection. The initial 'Assessment Mission' is aimed at preparing the ground for the formulation of the policy, and includes meetings with stakeholders so as to involve interested entities from the very beginning. [2] Given that an IPR policy is necessarily a political exercise, WIPO recommends that the mission be used to secure the political capital and commitment that would be necessary to see the exercise through. Then, a 'project (national) team' is constituted for an IP audit and develop an understanding of the economic, social and political infrastructure as context for the formulation of the policy. It is also stated that, in most instances, the team will include an international consultant. This is further complemented by 'Desk Research' and 'Data Collection' using the 'Baseline Survey Questionnaire', an integrated data collection tool developed by WIPO. The desk research is an assessment of the existing IP policies coupled with the country's broader goals - developmental, economic and social, so as to conceptualize a policy that is in conformity with the goals.

The data collection through the Baseline Survey Questionnaire is meant to complement the IP audit to understand the "weaknesses, strengths and potential" of "the current IP situation in the country". This audit and data collection drive is then buttressed with 'National Consultations' to validate the data and conclusions reached thus far. WIPO is unambiguous that the aim of these consultations is to enable a wide range of parties to exercise meaningful ownership and agency over the process of conceptualizing a national IPR policy. With the inputs received from the process so far, WIPO recommends that the drafting of the strategy commence on the basis of the "suggestions, opinions and recommendations received during the national consultation process". The drafting should operate at the level of each sector and the country as a whole. This is followed by a 'second round of stakeholder consultations'. These serve a dual purpose: to validate the findings of the first draft and to verify whether the first round of inputs are reflected in the draft itself. Finally, an 'implementation framework' including "implementation structures, a resource mobilization strategy, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms".

Assessing the First Draft of India's National IPR Policy:

Now, we look at the National IPR Policy in India in light of the WIPO framework outlined above. First we look at the Assessment Mission or process followed prior to the announcement of any IPR policy. Then, we look at what assessment was undertaken of the existing IP laws in the country. Finally, the stakeholders meetings conducted so far are analysed in comparison to the purpose of such consultations that WIPO envisages.

  1. Assessment Mission: There are no reports of an initial meeting having been held to explain the scope and methodology of the process. However, the IPR Think Tank invited comments before the release of the draft national policy in order to seek suggestions on the tentative policy. It should be noted that these comments have not been published.
  2. Assessment of existing IP framework: The overview of the existing IP system in the draft policy covers just the various IP legislations and the relevant government departments. It then proceeds to underscore elements in Indian law that enhance and incentivize stricter standards for IP protection. For example, it illustrated the future challenge in copyright law as being enforcement on digital platforms. It identifies a need for concerted action to increase patent filings by Indians as over "75% of patent filings are by foreign entities". Further, even when it mentions India's ratification of the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty ensuring access to copyrighted works for persons with visual impairment, it is in the context of further reinforcement of copyright.Therefore, it is clear that the perspective of the draft policy towards India's existing framework downplays provisions ensuring access and protecting the public interest and focusses on more expansive IP protection, narrower exceptions and an overall priority for IP rights over the public interest in accessing knowledge. The purpose of the IP audit and desk research, "to obtain a clear picture of the current IP situation…, its weaknesses, strengths and potential.", has not been done justice by this audit weighted in favour of rightsholders. Finally, the Baseline Survey Questionnaire -an integrated tool for extensive data collection - has no mention in the draft policy. There is no indication that it has been utilized for the purpose of data collection, if any.
  3. On stakeholder meetings: The Draft National IP Policy was released on 24 December 2014. A DIPP Press Release called for comments and suggestions to the First Draft to be sent in by January 30th, 2015.[3] The first set of stakeholder meetings were only held on February 5th and 6th, 2015.[4] This is at odds with what the WIPO recommends. The very first step in the WIPO framework is the 'Assessment Mission' which involves meetings with stakeholders that explains the scope and methodology of the process, presumably to elicit views. There is no publicly available information that suggests that this has taken place. Second, the national consultation precedes the drafting of the strategy with the explicit goal of validating the IP audit findings and eliciting views on the drafting of the strategy. This is not intended to be a merely formalistic exercise but meaningful involvement of stakeholders in the whole process of conceptualizing a national IPR policy. Now, the DIPP has solicited comments prior to the publication of the first draft. However, mere solicitation of comments without meaningful consultation is a mere shadow of the objective of the WIPO recommendation of national consultations - " actively participate in the validation of the IP audit findings and the formulation of the National IP enhance a wide a range of IP stakeholders' ownership of the process of developing and eventually implementing a national IP strategy." Therefore, the principled objective of the consultation process as outlined by WIPO - enabling stakeholders to exercise a sense of agency over the policy document and drafting process - was severely undermined. Furthermore, WIPO suggests that the drafting of the policy should be based on the findings and suggestions submitted by the stakeholders. Given that comments have been solicited before the policy was drafted, it is incumbent upon the Think Tank to make comments submitted public. [5]

The following table summarizes the comparison in the WIPO approach to that of the IPR Think Tank. Apart from the procedure outlined thus far, the table touches upon other points of comparison that are sure to inform the continued functioning of the Think Tank in the road towards a National IPR Policy.

WIPO Suggestion

India's National IP Policy Framework - Comparison

WIPO has also suggested a number of justifications that may be advanced for the  development of a national IP strategy. [6] These justifications will help in grounding the policy in a clear, lucid set of objectives. These are:

  1. Need to consolidate sectoral policies
  2. National long-term development agenda
  3. Benchmarking and best practices
  4. International trade obligations
  5. Strengthening the national IP office

India's Draft National IP Policy provides for the following objectives:[7]

  1. Create awareness of the economic, social and cultural benefits of IP (IP Awareness and Promotion)
  2. Stimulate the creation and growth of IP (Creation of IP)
  3. Strong and effective laws that protect IP rights in a manner consistent with national priorities and intl obligations and that balance the interests of the rights owners and the public (Legal and Legislative Framework)
  4. Strengthen IP administration and management of IP rights (IP Administration and Management)
  5. Augment Commercialization of IP rights; valuation, licensing and technology transfer (Commercialization of IP)
  6. Strengthen enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms to protect and combat against IP rights violations ( Enforcement and Adjudication)
  7. Human Capital Development in IP

The second prong of WIPO's suggestions is devoted entirely to the Baseline Survey Questionnaire. There are seven clusters identified:

  1. IP Administration and Management
  2. Generation of IP by universities, research organizations, business, industry, SMEs and individuals
  3. Commercialization of IP and technology transfer by universities, research organization, business, industry, SMEs and individuals
  4. Copyright and copyright industries
  5. Plan breeders; rights (plant variety protection)
  6. Enforcement of IP rights
  7. IP and public policy

While there are elements of these clusters in the draft policy, there is no mention of them in the context of the method of a Baseline Survey Questionnaire. This means that the data collection was not undertaken in compliance with WIPO's recommendations and means that there was either no data collected or the results are undermined.

Finally, the WIPO framework places great emphasis on the implementation of the policy.[8] It has elements of this in all three prongs. It requires the policy to have an effective framework for its implementation that includes resource mobilization and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.[9]

The issue of implementation is covered by the draft policy at two levels:

1. Implementation of IP rights - This includes

a) Placing the burden on individuals to protect their IP rights as IP is an "essentially private rights [sic]". [10] The state merely plays the role of the facilitator for protection.

b) Enacting rules and setting up institutions. Examples include the Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Rules 2007 framed to implement border control measures as well as the Copyright Enforcement Advisory Council. [11] Further, strengthening enforcement mechanisms includes the establishment of a centralized 'Multi-Agency Task Force' for coordination between the raft of agencies that India has. [12]

c) Facilitate IP dispute resolution through the designation of a specialized patent bench in select High Courts. It also calls for the creation of regional benches of the IPAB in all five regions where IPOs are located as well as an increase in the powers of the IPAB. [13]

2. Implementation of the Policy itself -[14]

a) It suggests that the integration of the policy with stated government programmes such as 'Make in India' and 'Digital India' would enable its implementation.

b) The establishment of IP Promotion and Development Council (IPPDC) which will open IP Promotion and Development Units (IPPDU) for promoting IP awareness, protection and utlilization.

c) IP support to MSMEs.

d) Technology Acquisition and Development Fund under the Manufacturing Policy for licensing or procuring patented technologies.

e) Manufacturing units will be encouraged to set up IP cells in their own units and make IP a part of their corporate strategy.

f) Integrate with government initiatives.

Conclusion: Testing Times Ahead

The IPR Think Tank has not been consistent with WIPO's recommendations on drafting a National IPR Policy. In terms of data analysis, the Think Tank has not displayed an iota of the analytical rigour and data collection that WIPO believes is necessary to understand both the state of IP in the country and devise effective means of responding to lacunae. Further, while consultations have been held with civil society, these have been lacking in two respects. They have not followed the timelines prescribed by WIPO insofar as consultations have happened only after the release of the first draft. As a result, the Think Tank has failed in actualizing the raison d'etre behind national consultations - "enhance a wide range of IP stakeholders' ownership of the process of developing and eventually implementing a national IP strategy". Finally, this piece is not an endorsement of WIPO or its recommendations but a mere acknowledgement of the role WIPO has played in this exercise. In the final analysis, India has fallen short of adhering to the principles reflected in the WIPO framework.


[2] The stakeholders that WIPO mentions are "..inter alia, the national IP office(s), relevant government departments, universities and research institutes, SMEs, inventors, creators, legal practitioners, non-governmental organizations (NGOs)".




[6] Methodology for the Development of National Intellectual Property Strategies, Tool 1: The Process, p. 11.

[7] National IPR Policy (First Draft), p. 6-23.

[8] Methodology for the Development of National Intellectual Property Strategies, Tool 1: The Process, p. 9.

[9] Ibid .

[10] Ibid , p. 20.

[11] Ibid , p. 20.

[12] Ibid , p. 21.

[13] Ibid , p. 22.

[14] Ibid , p. 25-26.