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India asks US to tighten patent regime to curb misuse

New Delhi, July 31: Turning the tables on the US that has been criticising India for lax intellectual property rules, New Delhi has asked Washington to tighten its own laws to discourage increasing practices of ever greening and trolling by US drug companies which lead to wrongful profiteering and patent extension. Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, during his recent visit to the US, took up the issue of patents misuse by US companies in his meetings with US Trade Representative Michael Froman and US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Trolling is a process through which an individual or a company buys a patent, often from a bankrupt company, and threatens to sue other companies manufacturing a product similar to the patented one without itself manufacturing the product. Ever-greening, on the other hand, is a process through which patent holders try to extend patents beyond its normal life by making minor changes in the product. The Minister stressed on the need for the US Government to strengthen patent laws in his meeting with officials. Even the US courts have given verdicts against the process of trolling, Commerce Secretary S.R. Rao told Business Line. India also said that it would not make any changes in its intellectual property regime to make it more favourable for patent users as urged by the US because it was in compliance with the global agreement on patents also known as the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). We said that India is already TRIPS compliant and has no intention of going TRIPS plus, Rao said. The US industry has been complaining against Indias decision to grant a compulsory licence to Indian company Natco to manufacture an anti-cancer drug produced by patent holder Bayer as it was priced prohibitively high in the country. The Supreme Courts decision upholding the Indian Patent Appellate Boards rejection of a patent application made by Swiss company Novartis on the ground that it was not a substantial improvement over its older drug for which patent protection had run out also came in for heavy criticism from multinational drug companies. The US Trade Representative, in its special report on countries with low patent protection, has been consistently placing India in the Priority Watch List.

AP, news aggregator Meltwater end copyright dispute


By Bernard Vaughan NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Associated Press and news aggregator Meltwater News Service have ended their copyright dispute, which had drawn close scrutiny within the media industry because of its potential impact on how news is distributed online. The AP had accused Meltwater, a subscriber-only electronic clipping service, in a lawsuit early last year of copying "substantial infringing excerpts" of its stories and delivering them to corporate customers. In a filing on Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, lawyers for both parties said all remaining claims and counterclaims had been dismissed. The AP and Meltwater separately announced a partnership to "seek to create new revenue opportunities for both parties through the sale of new products" through Meltwater's sales network. Meltwater had argued that its use of AP works was covered by the fair use doctrine, which allows for the use of copyrighted works for purposes including criticism, comment and news reporting. In March, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote sided with the AP, saying Meltwater violated the AP's copyright by excerpting its articles without a license and redistributing them to Meltwater subscribers. Meltwater Chief Executive Jorn Lyseggen, had vowed to appeal, but in a statement on Monday said: "There is more to be gained by working together to develop new markets and reaching new customers than can be achieved through adversarial paths." Gary Pruitt, AP's president and chief executive, said: "The litigation is behind us, and we are looking forward to partnering with Meltwater." The case is Associated Press v Meltwater U.S. Holdings Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-01087.

Bangalore Blue Grapes gets Geographical Indication status


BANGALORE: Bangalore Blue Grapes, exclusively grown in districts around the city, has been given the Geographical Indication (GI) status. The move comes three years after Karnataka's horticulture department submitted its first detailed proposals to the office of the Controller-General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks seeking GI tag. Bangalore Blue, characterized by its 'foxy flavour', is exclusively grown in Bangalore Urban, Chikkaballapur and Kolar districts. Its cultivation has been going on for the past 150 years in about 5,000 hectares. The livelihood of over 15,000 farmers in the Nandi Valley depends on their cultivation. The Bangalore Blue got the GI tag (no 211) for its specific geographic and indigenous variety. "If the grapes are grown in any other area it will be devoid of its characteristic flavour and colour," said P Sampath Kumar, principal scientist (horticulture), Division of Fruit Crops, Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Hessaraghatta. Authentic Bangalore Blue grapes need to be grown in red sandy loam soil at a day temperature of about 35-37 degrees Celsius and night temperature of 12-15 degree Celsius which is unique to Bangalore and its surrounding areas. "The grapes develop their typical colour and slip skin nature (thin skin) at this temperature," Kumar said.While more than 4.5 lakh tonnes of Bangalore Blue grapes are produced annually, most of it is used for table purposes - raw consumption, making jams and jellies etc. About 4,000 tonnes are purchased by the wine industry. Wine prepared by this variety of grape isn't classified as classical variety but falls under the fortified grade."Bangalore Blue grape wine is not considered grape wine in the international market as they consist of a maximum of only 10-12 percent of alcohol. Often ethanol is added to increase the alcohol content," Kumar added. As a result, the state's wine policy doesn't extend exclusive subsidies to this variety of grapes like it does for French variety of grapes, which is a bone of contention among the cultivators. Wine companies have also consistently decreased their purchase of Bangalore Blue over the years, switching over to French variety of grapes, say officials of Karnataka State Grape Growers Association.Officials of the horticulture department say that despite the GI status on the fruit, it's unlikely that cultivators will get any subsidies from the government. "The GI status was conferred for the sole reason that the Bangalore Blue grapes are grown particularly in and around the city area. This should not force government to issue subsidies for wine-making using the variety of fruit," said an official of the horticulture department.

Russia imposes ban on New Zealand dairy products


Russia has become the second country, after China, to block imports of milk powder and other dairy products made by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra. The decision was made following the giants last Saturday's announcement that up to 1,000 tons of its products, including infant formula and sports drinks, sold in seven countries could be tainted with bacteria causing botulism. In Russia the ban on Fonterras products became effective on August 3, when Russias Chief Sanitary Inspector Gennadiy Onishchenko informed the press that a corresponding order had been issued to authorize withdrawal and ban of realization of the companys products in the Russian market. However, the official added they had not yet received any notices about what types of products had been infected. Onishchenko said now that Fonterras products were still in the market, Russian consumers, and parents of children in particular, should be very cautious about dairy products they were buying. Russia was the second country to impose the ban. Earlier China had blocked the entry of the giants products to the country after major companies importing Fonterra products had been instructed to "immediately stop selling and to recall all food products" made with questionable material. Dairy production is a major part of New Zealand economy, with China to be its biggest export market. New Zealand's government has already informed 60 officials were assigned to work on the botulism scare. In Russia Fonterra is the second largest exporter of milk powder. The company holds up to 20 percent of the products market share. Fonterra apologises over milk scare, denies cover-up: CEO New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra apologised Monday for a botulism scare that saw product recalls in China but denied accusations by Prime Minister John Key that it had delayed releasing information. "We deeply apologise to the people who have been affected," CEO Theo Spierings said at a news conference in Beijing, insisting that the company had informed customers and the authorities within 24 hours of confirming the problem. The whey product involved is used to make infant formula and soft drinks, and had been contaminated with a bacteria that can cause botulism. China is the world's biggest market for formula.

"We totally understand the concern among parents. They have a right to know that food is safe," Spierings said, adding that Fonterra planned to "test anything that leaves New Zealand as a precautionary measure". New Zealand Prime Minister John Key had earlier accused the company of a "staggering" delay in revealing the contamination. "I'm a bit staggered" that tests had shown "something" in May 2012, when the batch was produced, "but clearly not something that was of concern to the company because they allowed it to go out," Key told Radio New Zealand. "You would have thought that for a business where its top business is essentially based around consumer confidence, food safety and the quality of its products, that they are risks that you wouldn't take," Key added. But Spierings said the first signs of a problem only emerged after tests in March this year. Further tests were required to identify "the root cause and the exact strain" of bacteria involved, he said. China stops imports of milk powder from New Zealand China has blocked all imports of milk powder from New Zealand, a New Zealand minister said Sunday, after bacteria that can lead to botulism was found in some dairy products. Trade Minister Tim Groser said the ban was "entirely appropriate", after global dairy giant Fonterra said some exported whey products including infant formula may contain bacteria that could lead to the potentially fatal illness. China has not officially announced an import ban.In Beijing, the Food and Drug Administration said it had met officials from three companies importing Fonterra products and instructed them to "immediately stop selling and to recall all food products" made with questionable material. New Zealand: dairy giant issues global botulism alert New Zealand authorities have triggered a global recall of up to 1,000 tons of dairy products across seven countries after dairy giant Fonterra announced tests had turned up a type of bacteria that could cause botulism. New Zealand's Ministry of Primary Industries said Saturday that the tainted products include infant formula, sports drinks, protein drinks and other beverages. The government said the contaminated whey protein concentrate, or products using this ingredient, had been exported to Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam. Dairy giant Fonterra, which manufactured the product more than a year ago, said eight customers had been advised and were investigating whether any of the affected product was in their supply chains.

If necessary, contaminated consumer products would be recalled, the company said in a statement. There have been no reports of any illness linked to consumption of the affected whey protein. Fonterra is the world's fourth-largest dairy company, with annual revenues of about $16 billion.The news comes as a blow to New Zealand's dairy industry, which powers the country's economy. New Zealand exports about 95 percent of its milk. Consumers in China and elsewhere are willing to pay a big premium for New Zealand infant formula because the country has a clean and healthy reputation. Chinese consumers have a special interest after tainted local milk formula killed six babies in 2008. Three batches of whey protein concentrate manufactured in May last year recently tested positive for Clostridium botulinum. The batches have been used to form 870 tonnes of products sold in a variety of markets, the Ministry for Primary Industries' Acting Director General Scott Gallacher said. The symptoms of botulism include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, followed by paralysis, and it can be fatal if not treated.