The Indian Express: For innovation’s sake

By Patrick Kilbride

In many respects, the relationship between the United States and India has never been better. President Barack Obama became the first US president to visit India twice during his tenure in office; Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, has travelled four times to the United States, underlining the value both governments have placed on expanding our economic and commercial relationship.

When the United States and India collaborate, both countries win. The recently reinvigorated dialogue between the U.S. and India has already begun to reap rewards for both nations, with trade in goods and services growing from $19 billion in 2000 to over $100 billion in 2014. PM Modi and President Obama have committed to quintupling two-way trade to $500 billion. Such bilateral trade and investment ties boost job creation, economic growth, and global competitiveness for both the United States and India.

Yet, in order for bilateral commerce to achieve its full potential, our countries must come together on policies to stimulate investor confidence. The upcoming Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) — scheduled to take place from August 29-31 — provides one such opportunity to discuss areas of the relationship that are ripe for further growth. Intellectual property-led innovation should be foremost among them.

Intellectual property (IP) protections play a pivotal role in creating an environment conducive to innovation and creativity. A number of studies, including data recently released in the 2016 US Chamber International IP Index, reveal the relationship between strong IP protection and increased innovative output, as well as access to innovative technologies, medicines, entertainment, and software.

Moreover, the index found that countries with robust IP protection are a more attractive foreign direct investment (FDI) destination, have a stronger overall business environment, and have greater access to venture capital — especially important factors for the success of PM Modi’s StartUp and Digital India initiatives.

India’s recently released National IPR Policy demonstrates the government’s recognition of the importance of IP to fostering innovation. The policy is an important first step, and the US remains committed to working with India to ensure its implementation strengthens IP protection. The S&CD provides a critical forum for these discussions, and an opportunity to create momentum for IP reforms which go beyond the provisions of the National IPR Policy.

The S&CD also provides a forum to focus attention on key IP-related developments, including the release of pending guidelines on the patentability of computer-related inventions (CRIs). Industry heralded the final guidelines released in August 2015, which, following a lengthy, open, and transparent consultation process, affirmed India’s long-standing practice of providing for the patentability of software.
However, the subsequent decision to withdraw and revise the guidelines in response to a special interest plea called into question the Indian government’s commitment to tech innovation and its budding reputation for regulatory transparency.

In an era where software innovation cuts across all industries — from medical technology to electronic manufacturing to digital communication — patenting of CRIs is critical to future technological growth and vital to the success of the Make in India and Digital India campaigns. Above all, implementation of the August guidelines would have been a visible, concrete step toward a stronger Indian IP system. And the guidelines would have given India’s already strong technology, pharmaceutical, and entertainment industries a platform to bring their innovation and creativity to global markets in a much more comprehensive fashion.

As the centrepiece for bilateral collaboration, the S&CD provides the United States and India with a forum to address goals of broad strategic interest. Nothing could be more strategic than a joint investment in our innovative and creative futures through a shared commitment to an effective IP infrastructure. And while the dialogue itself is critical, the time is ripe to move from words to action.

Business stands ready to support the government’s efforts to collaborate on critical areas of IP reform, from which both countries stand to gain.

The writer is executive director of the International Intellectual Property for the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) at the US Chamber of Commerce