India has virtually been a closed economy for four decades since independence. Fearing infringement by the global market on the country's nascent economy, the policy makers adopted a protectionist regime to create an environment for the economy to grow and prosper.
As a result the domestic players did not face any competition from the global front. However, its flip-side was soon to be realized. With this type of trade policy regime, surfaced inefficiencies in various sectors. There was no incentive to keep pace with the dynamics of technology with a huge amount of loss in the economy of the nation. There was death of inventions and the country was far behind meeting the global standards of quality.
In such scenario, a radical change in India's policy regime was indispensible. Keeping all these problems in mind, India steered towards a more orderly path to deal with trade policies. It took strong steps in strengthening Intellectual property rights (IPR) in the country keeping in mind the domestic factors.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) are the exclusive rights enjoyed by their creators or owners regarding the intangible assets like music, literary skills, artistic work which bears certain novelty and utilitarian values and can be displayed in the public domain.
The owners are given such rights to prevent exploitation by others and provide varied opportunity to create further works.
India has recorded a sea change in its approach towards IPR initially which somehow shifted its stance at WTO between Uruguay to Doha rounds.
At the Uruguay round, the developed countries proposed to bring the IPR within the ambits of trade policy of WTO through TRIPS agreement.
This came from the pressure mounting over the developed countries by the big pharmaceutical corporate lobby. The business interests of India were strongly apprehensive about this. The disenchantment was quite justifiable because the country was at initial stage of capacity building.
With the policy reforms of 1991, various sectors of the business bodies came out openly supporting the TRIPS agreement. Even though the resistance from the industrial bodies was weak, the civil society lobby came strongly against the agreement citing the high price rise of the healthcare medicine which would put a significant strain in the management of public health.
At the Doha rounds, India along with the developing countries like Brazil and South Africa proposed acknowledgement regarding public health and securities which resulted in their victory.
The declaration recognized the right of the members to grant "Compulsory license" (CL) and deciding the grounds where to grant CL. This proved to be hugely beneficial to reduce the cost of medicine and provide health care facilities to every person.
"Compulsory license" (CL) gives the right to the domestic pharmaceutical companies to produce generic low cost medicine which was patented by the global pharmaceutical, as and when directed by the national government in the light to provide health care coverage to the it public at large.
The developing countries were given further relaxation of time for the implementation of the TRIPS agreement keeping in consideration the domestic factors and local environment.
In a recent confrontation between India and the U.S, the latter has claimed that India's IPR laws discriminate the U.S companies especially the pharmaceutical sector.
The grant of Compulsory license (CL) to the Hyderabad based Natco pahrma to manufacture the anti-cancer drug nexavar at price lower than its patent-holder Bayer has not gone down well in the U.S. It has accused India of not being complaint with the International agreements. India has replied gravely that the issuance of the CL is well within the right of the member nation of WTO when it comes to public interest.
After independence India adopted a restrictive trade policy which hampered competition and in the long run, India was technologically backward.
With the policy reforms after 1990, it opened its doors to the world, taking an initiative with the adoption of TRIPS in the year 1994. This resulted in the multilateral flow of knowledge, technology, and manpower services which established free flow of trade and overthrew the monopolistic market system in the Indian society.
In the context of enormous changes being made, India has maintained a rather predictable stance at the WTO.
It has changed from its defensive and apprehensive attitude to a more aggressive attitude to conform to the global standards of cost and quality through TRIPS agreement.
At the same time it has adhered to its domestic demand to have certain rights to comply the public needs and aspirations which it achieved righteously from the Doha rounds.