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Brill's Developing Countries Program

Economist Stefan Dercon tells John Thornhill about the findings of a research project he led, showing how, used wisely, technology can enable development, rather than just replace labour and put people out of work. Read his report here. A transcript for this podcast is currently unavailable, view our accessibility guide.

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A Developing World

A weekly conversation that looks at the way technology is changing our economies, societies and daily lives. Hosted by John Thornhill, innovation editor at the Financial Times.

November 18, The pressure is clearly increasing for the Indian government and judiciary to weaken its patentability standards and practices, to create new regulatory barriers to generic competition, and to limit the use of public health safeguards. The European Union.


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The European Union had been pushing India to adopt stricter intellectual property measures than it is required to do under international trade rules, through a trade agreement it has been negotiating with India since Pushback from the Indian government and civil society led those trade talks to be stalled for several years, but indications are that the EU wants to re-start the talks with the new Indian government soon. The negotiating text includes harmful provisions that could potentially block the export of generic medicines from India; allow medicines to be delayed, seized, detained and destroyed; and embroil third parties, including suppliers of active pharmaceutical ingredients used to produce generic medicines and treatment providers like MSF, in court cases simply for buying or distributing generic medicines.

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In the RCEP negotiations, Japan is playing a leading role in pushing stringent standards for IP that will undermine and delay access to affordable generic medicines. The leaked text of a proposal put forth by the government of Japan to the Working Group on IP includes harmful intellectual property provisions such as patent term extensions, data exclusivity and lowering patentability criteria, all of which extend monopoly protection beyond what is required by existing international agreements.

These provisions also create new kinds of monopolies, even after patent-based monopolies have expired or in cases where they never existed. Unless damaging IP provisions are removed by countries like India before negotiations are finalised, the RCEP agreement could become one of the most harmful trade agreements ever for access to medicines.

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The EFTA negotiations, led by Switzerland, have been on hold for the last few years, but are expected to restart soon. The leaked text has shown that text proposed by Swiss negotiators would require India to lower its patentability criteria, in a bid to get the legal framework for examining patent applications in India relaxed.


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  5. If Switzerland succeeds, multinational pharmaceutical companies are likely to obtain secondary patents far more widely in India, effectively blocking generic competition. Lest we forget The Novartis Case. The company had been refused a patent in India on a cancer drug it produces. In a first case before the High Court in Chennai, Novartis claimed that the Act did not meet rules set down by the World Trade Organization and was in violation of the Indian constitution.