India’s free trade pact with the European Union will hinge in EU’s ability to address India’s concerns on its generic drug industry. There is a feeling that Indian generics are being targeted by European Union, using non-tariff means to appease its domestic lobbies.

The latest is European Union’s change in trademark legislation. It has provisions to confiscate shipments of Indian medicines passing through the European ports or airports to other destinations. Indian generic industry sees such attempts as efforts by European drug companies to choke Indian generics.

The Business Line reports that EU has used non-tariff measures against Indian generics in the past also. In 2015, EU played up some marginal discrepancies in lab tests to ban 700 generic formulations made by India’s GVK Biosciences. Feeling hurt, India called off the talks on India-EU free trade agreement.

In 2010, EU customs authorities confiscated several Indian off-patent generic drug consignments going to Brazil thru European ports and airports. They were seized, by citing alleged infringement of EU intellectual property rights (IPR). India and Brazil moved the World Trade Organisation and argued that such seizures were in violation of the multilateral Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.

Under TRIPS, those medicines were off-patent both in India and Brazil. India sees such controversies as a battle to capture the world’s booming generic drugs markets. India’s cheap generics are a threat to many patented multinational drug companies. Indian generics are growing fast and the market may grow from $15 billion to $40 billion by 2020.

Meanwhile, several global drug makers are facing the issue of patent expiry. Some of the biggies are busy ‘ever-greening’ the patents by making puny improvements to the past versions. Then they are presenting them as new versions. India’s Patent Act disallows such ever-greening and presenting such patents as in the case of proverbial old wine in a new bottle.

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