Interest Groups and Patent Reform in India

Anitha Ramanna
JEL codes: 

Indias patent reforms represent a shift in Indias policy from one of enormous
opposition to revising patent laws according to the WTO, to one of compliance with many
aspects of TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement. Industry and civil
society had a strong interest in blocking reforms on IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights), and
initially played an important role in preventing reforms of Indias patent law. India has recently
changed its patent regime, led by important industry groups who revised their positions, and
new NGOs that promoted reform. The preferences of actors and their changing interests are
important factors in the reform process. Perceived benefits from the new regime partly explain
the rise of a pro-reform constituency among industry and NGOs. Yet preference formation is
complex and depends on interpretation of strategies by various actors. The Indian
pharmaceutical case reflects the imperatives both to forge ahead on patent reform, while
protecting the generic market and restricting IPRs. NGOs that emerged to support patent
reform also played a role in directing policy towards protecting traditional knowledge. The
interests of actors do not always follow predictable paths, and are not fixed. Evaluating the
preferences of actors rather than assuming them provides insights into the way policy
processes are shaped.