India

Research Paper 194, 15 February 2024

Implementation of TRIPS Flexibilities and Injunctions: A Case Study of India

by Shirin Syed

The proponents of intellectual property (IP) have increasingly utilized injunctions with indiscriminate propensity as a strategic tool for IP enforcement, resulting in adverse socio-economic implications, including the enjoyment of human rights. This trend has eclipsed the flexibilities provided in the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. Although a substantial volume of the literature focuses on the flexibilities of compulsory license or scope of patentability, little attention has been given to the flexibilities related to IP enforcement. Discussing the implications of IP enforcement on public interest, the paper examines the gaps in the articulation of flexibilities of intellectual property rights (IPRs) enforcement, with special reference to injunctions in India. It examines how far the courts consider the implications on the enjoyment of fundamental rights while granting injunctions on patents. This paper argues that the Indian courts have deviated from the cautious approach provisioned under the TRIPS flexibilities that allows the courts to consider the public interest aspect and human rights implications while granting injunctions in patent litigation. Moreover, it asserts that the courts should exercise prudence in granting injunctive relief in cases involving patent infringement, and take into account the potential impact of such relief on the exercise of human rights. This suggests a need for a careful examination of the potential implications of injunctive remedies in such cases.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief No. 37, 29 January 2024

A Decade of the Indian Advance Pricing Agreement Programme: Achievements and Challenges

By Priyanka Mashelkar and Apoorv Tiwari

India’s Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) programme was introduced in 2012 with the objective of reducing transfer pricing disputes and providing certainty to taxpayers on their international transactions. In the last decade or so, the programme has proven to be a successful dispute mitigation and resolution mechanism. The authors use data and statistics from a recently released report by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in India to highlight the success of the programme, while also acknowledging the challenges ahead, especially as taxpayers’ expectations from the programme continue to rise.

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SouthViews No. 251, 12 September 2023

Value Addition or Trade Misinvoicing: Coal Trading in the Asia-Pacific

By Manuel F. Montes and Peter Lunenborg

Statistics on coal trade between India, Singapore and Indonesia suggest that trade misinvoicing is used as a vehicle for illicit financial flows. At present this practice is not well addressed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s tax standards. Asia-Pacific countries should intensify cooperation on this issue. Other international organizations with a mandate in this area could also play a role, for instance the World Trade Organization. Ultimately, increased cooperation would help to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 16.4 which inter alia aims, by 2030, to significantly reduce illicit financial flows.

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Research Paper 166, 6 October 2022

Lessons From India’s Implementation of Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health

By Nanditta Batra

The major bone of contention between the developed and developing countries in the TRIPS negotiations was patents for pharmaceuticals. The US-led developed countries bloc argued in favour of patents for pharmaceuticals amidst opposition from Brazil, India and other countries. Ample evidence, including patented AZT for HIV/AIDS treatment, showed that patents could make life saving drugs prohibitively expensive. Notwithstanding the effect of patents on access to medicines, Article 27 of the TRIPS Agreement ordained patents for inventions “in all fields of technology”. While the genie was out of the bottle in the form of patents for pharmaceuticals, the developing countries were able to extract some procedural and substantive flexibilities like transition period, parallel importation and compulsory licensing to leverage the IP system to further public health. However, there was uncertainty with respect to the interpretation of TRIPS agreement, scope of the flexibilities and Member States’ rights to use them. It is in this background that the historic Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health assumed importance as it reaffirmed the rights of the Member States to take measures to protect public health, reconciled the interpretative tensions in the text of TRIPS Agreement and clarified the scope of some of the flexibilities and attempts to find solutions to the problems faced by countries that do not have sufficient manufacturing facilities. The Declaration which was initially dismissed by some scholars as “non-binding,” “soft law” has been held by WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to constitute a “subsequent agreement” which must be followed in interpreting the provisions of TRIPS Agreement (Australia-Tobacco Plain Packaging Case).

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Research Paper 158, 15 June 2022

Twenty Years After Doha: An Analysis of the Use of the TRIPS Agreement’s Public Health Flexibilities in India

By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD  

The World Trade Organization (WTO) linked intellectual property protection with trade. The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), however, included a number of public health flexibilities in order to provide latitude to the Member States to tailor their national patent laws to fit their individual needs. In 2001, the Doha Declaration further clarified and reaffirmed the existing TRIPS flexibilities. This paper argues that India has taken the lead role in enacting the TRIPS Agreement’s substantive and procedural patent flexibilities by introducing unique legislative measures to deal with the problem of access to medicines. This article evaluates India’s use of section 3(d) as a subject matter exclusivity provision. It examines constitutional validity and TRIPS compliance of section 3(d). It also evaluates India’s use of the flexibility to define the term “inventive step”. Moreover, this article evaluates India’s use of compulsory licensing, the most notable exception to patent rights provided under the TRIPS Agreement. This empirical study is important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has once again highlighted the same public health issues that the Doha Declaration sought to address twenty years ago.

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Research Paper 146, 16 February 2022

A Review of WTO Disputes on TRIPS: Implications for Use of Flexibilities for Public Health   

By Nirmalya Syam

The use of TRIPS flexibilities by WTO members involves interpretation of the obligations under TRIPS which can be challenged under the WTO dispute settlement system. Mutually agreed solutions, panel or Appellate Body decisions adopted in such disputes can thus impact the scope of TRIPS flexibilities to address, among others, public health objectives. This paper explores how the WTO dispute settlement system applies to disputes under TRIPS, and reviews the outcomes of the disputes relating to the implementation of TRIPS obligations in the context of pharmaceutical products. The paper points to both systemic and substantive concerns arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to disputes under TRIPS. It finds that the dispute settlement system is not aligned to the unique nature of the TRIPS Agreement in the WTO as an agreement that creates positive obligations, and consequently how jurisprudence arising under disputes concerning other covered agreements having negative obligations, have led panels and Appellate Bodies to adopt narrow interpretations of the scope of TRIPS flexibilities in some of the few disputes arising under the TRIPS Agreement. Moreover, mutually agreed settlements adopted in the context of some of the disputes arising under TRIPS have also led to the adoption of TRIPS plus standards, limiting the scope of TRIPS flexibilities. However, in a recent decision, the WTO panel has also relied on the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as a subsequent agreement to guide the interpretation of its provisions. In this context, the paper advances some suggestions to address the systemic and substantive issues arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to the TRIPS Agreement.

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Research Paper 145, 9 February 2022

The Right to Health in Pharmaceutical Patent Disputes

by Emmanuel Kolawole Oke

This paper examines how the courts in three developing countries (Kenya, South Africa, and India) have addressed the tension between patent rights on pharmaceutical products and the right to health. The paper begins by examining the nature of the relationship between patent rights and the right to health. It thereafter explores the justiciability of the right to health in Kenya, South Africa, and India. Furthermore, the paper provides an analysis of how the courts in these three developing countries have adjudicated some of the pharmaceutical patent cases involving tensions between the right to health and patent rights. The paper contends that by incorporating the right to health into the adjudication of patent disputes, courts in developing countries can play a crucial role in improving access to medicines at affordable prices.

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Informes sobre políticas en materia de cooperación tributaria 17, Julio de 2021

Una carga molesta para naciones en vías de desarrollo: Cláusula de NMF en tratados impositivos

Por Deepak Kapoor, IRS 

La cláusula de la nación más favorecida (“NMF”) de los convenios para evitar la doble tributación encarna el principio básico de no discriminación y tiene por objeto aportar paridad a las oportunidades empresariales y de inversión entre los países y las jurisdicciones partes en los tratados. La incorporación de disposiciones como las cláusulas de la NMF y de no discriminación en los tratados de tributación pretende promover la equidad entre las partes en los tratados. En el contexto de los tratados de tributación entre países desarrollados y en desarrollo, las cláusulas de la NMF también actúan como herramienta de negociación para contemplar mejores tipos impositivos en los tratados.

Sin embargo, últimamente, estas cláusulas han empezado a manifestar unos efectos negativos en los países de origen, que en su mayor parte son países en desarrollo. Por lo general, no parece que las cláusulas de la NMF estén creando posibles riesgos si son operativas entre dos países con el mismo grado de desarrollo, pero, cuando la relación se establece entre un país desarrollado y otro en desarrollo, donde una parte recibe de la otra más inversiones de las que hace, ese tipo de riesgo es inevitable. Recientemente, se han producido problemas a raíz de diversas interpretaciones de las cláusulas de la NMF por parte de los tribunales que han obligado a los países de origen a ampliar los beneficios de los tipos reducidos y el ámbito de aplicación restringido a los países parte en el tratado con arreglo a las normas de la NMF. Esa clase de interpretaciones beneficiosas han ido más allá del objetivo y el propósito básicos de las cláusulas de la NMF.

A tenor de causas judiciales que han tenido lugar recientemente en Sudáfrica y la India, parece que las cláusulas de la NMF están creando oportunidades de “reducción de impuestos” y están dando lugar a una erosión involuntaria de la base imponible de los países de origen. El problema también radica en la redacción y las formulaciones ambiguas de las cláusulas de la NMF, que finalmente provocan resultados negativos inesperados para los países que están obligados por compromisos futuros. Por consiguiente, en estos momentos, las jurisdicciones de origen necesitan con urgencia un examen exhaustivo de las cláusulas de la NMF existentes en los tratados de tributación, sus relaciones cruzadas y sus posibles efectos secundarios negativos en otros tratados.

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Rapports sur les politiques en matière de coopération fiscale 17, Juillet 2021

Un albatros autour du cou des pays en développement – Clause NPF dans les conventions fiscales

Par Deepak Kapoor, IRS

L’inclusion dans les conventions en matière de double imposition d’une clause de la nation la plus favorisée (« NPF ») est une incarnation du principe fondamental de la non-discrimination et vise à permettre aux pays signataires de tirer également parti des perspectives en matière de commerce et d’investissement. L’objectif de dispositions telles que les clauses NPF et de non-discrimination dans les conventions fiscales est de favoriser l’équité entre les différents pays signataires. Dans les conventions fiscales conclues entre pays développés et pays en développement, les clauses NPF servent également d’outils de négociation pour obtenir de meilleurs taux d’imposition.

Cependant ces clauses ont aujourd’hui des effets négatifs pour les pays de source des revenus, qui sont pour la plupart des pays en développement. Lorsqu’elles sont appliquées entre deux pays également développés, les clauses NPF ne constituent pas, généralement, une source de danger potentielle, mais lorsque la convention est conclue entre un pays développé et un pays en développement, où l’un des pays reçoit plus d’investissements de l’autre qu’il n’en réalise, le danger est réel. De fait, des difficultés sont apparues récemment en raison d’interprétations divergentes de ces clauses par les tribunaux, qui ont contraint les pays source à appliquer, sur la base des termes contenus dans la clause NPF, un taux d’imposition plus avantageux que celui prévu dans la convention fiscale et à modifier son champ d’application, remettant en cause l’objectif et l’utilité même des clauses NPF.

Il ressort des procédures judiciaires intentées en Afrique du Sud et en Inde que les clauses NPF peuvent aboutir à une réduction de la fiscalité et entrainer une érosion involontaire de la base d’imposition des pays de source des revenus. Le problème réside également dans la rédaction et la formulation ambiguë des clauses NPF, qui entrainent des répercussions négatives inattendues pour les pays ayant pris des engagements dans le cadre de ces conventions. Il est aujourd’hui urgent pour les pays source de procéder à un examen approfondi des clauses NPF figurant dans les conventions fiscales existantes, de la manière dont elles s’articulent entre elles et des retombées négatives qu’elles pourraient avoir sur  d’autres conventions.

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Policy Brief 97, July 2021

The WTO TRIPS Waiver Should Help Build Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity in Africa

 By Faizel Ismail

The current global health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has re-focused our attention on the inadequacy of the TRIPS agreement and the patent system to address global public health crises. This time, developing countries must ensure that the TRIPS waiver succeeds in creating the impetus for the building of manufacturing capacity in the poorest countries, especially in Africa, for vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other health technologies. This is the only effective way in which African countries can reduce their dependence on imports of essential medicines and build their health security, contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals, for the poorest countries.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 17, July 2021

An Albatross Around the Neck of Developing Nations – MFN Clause in Tax Treaties

By Deepak Kapoor, IRS

The Most Favoured Nation (“MFN”) clause in double taxation avoidance conventions epitomises the basic principle of non-discrimination and intends to bring parity in business and investment opportunities among treaty partner countries and jurisdictions. Inclusion of provisions like MFN and non-discrimination clauses in tax treaties are intended to promote equity among treaty partners. In the context of tax treaties between developed and developing countries, the MFN clauses also act as negotiating tools to bargain for better treaty tax rates.

However, lately these clauses have started demonstrating disadvantageous effects for the source countries, which are mostly developing countries. The MFN clauses generally do not appear to be creating potential risks if they are operational between two equally developed countries but when the relationship is between a developed and developing country, where one partner receives more investments from the other than it makes, such risks are inevitable. Lately, problems have started arising due to various interpretations of the MFN clauses by the courts forcing the source countries to extend benefits of reduced rates and restricted scope to treaty partner countries under the MFN rules. Such beneficial interpretations have gone beyond the basic objective and purpose of the MFN clauses.

In light of recent court cases in South Africa and India, it appears that the MFN clauses are creating opportunities for “reduced taxation” and leading to unintended erosion of tax base of source countries. The problem also lies with the ambiguous drafting and formulations of the MFN clauses, which eventually leads to unexpected negative outcomes for countries who have bound themselves with the future commitments. Therefore, a comprehensive review of existing MFN clauses in tax treaties, their cross connections and possible negative spill over effects to other treaties is the urgent need of the hour for the source jurisdictions.

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Research Paper 129, March 2021

The TRIPS waiver proposal: an urgent measure to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccines

by Henrique Zeferino de Menezes

Despite multilateral commitments and political statements of solidarity and cooperation to guarantee the availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines (and other relevant technologies for control and treatment), the scenario after the beginning of vaccination is marked by the deepening of vaccine nationalism, the concentration of inputs and vaccines production, and the uneven distribution of options of vaccine doses already approved for use. This pattern of production restrictions and unequal access will lead to an increase in international inequalities, leaving a large part of the world to have access to vaccines not until 2024. While advanced purchase agreements (APAs) among pharmaceutical companies and some developed countries are multiplying, the proposed mechanisms for voluntary licensing of technologies and the COVAX Facility do not achieve their goal of democratizing access to vaccines. In this sense, the current TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver proposal seems to be the political and institutional response with the greatest potential to guarantee the scaling of the production of pharmaceutical inputs, allowing the adoption of a comprehensive strategy to ensure timely, sufficient, and affordable access to all technologies developed to fight COVID-19.

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