Chandra Joshi, an Indian patent associate sent an announcement on the  amendments to Indian patent law that took effect on January 1, 2005.  The amendments brings Indian law into compliance with World Trade Organization TRIPs agreement and rationalizes the procedures for patent prosecution.

These changes (1) make the national law compliant with Art. 27 of the TRIPS agreement; (2) provide for product patent protection for all categories of inventions; (3) repeal the provisions concerning Exclusive Marketing Rights (EMRs); (4) provide for a transitional provision to protect EMRs already granted ; (5)  introduce provisions to give effect to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health; and (6) empower the IP Appellate Tribunal to adjudicate upon revocation of patents.

India, as you know, had so far permitted Patents only for processes and not products. With the new amendment to the Patent Act, it would now be possible to obtain Patents for product patents in Pharmaceuticals and Agro Chemicals. Under the Product Patent regime no new-use Patents would be granted.

The ordinance seeks to strengthen opposition proceedings by allowing for both pre-grant and post-grant opposition. The ordinance also seeks to simplify and rationalize the time-frame for process of patents. The time limit for giving requests for examination has been reduced to 36 months from 48 months earlier. Security provisions will also be tightened particularly for dual-use patent applications. Such patents will now be scrutinized by the patent office.

Further, software would continue to be copyright protected, embedded software that has technical applications can now be patented.

The reforms are to end decades of policies that allowed Indian firms to make cheap versions of expensive Western products. This could mean enormous changes to India’s pharmaceutical industry. The current revenues of the Indian pharmaceutical industry are estimated at US$5.5 billion and it is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 19% and reach US$25 billion in revenue by 2010 (The Economic Times, May 1, 2001).  The future of the Indian pharmaceutical industry will depend on strong patent protection.  See more info here.

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