Image Courtesy: Global Panorama @ FlickrThe Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, ended his US tour on October 1st following a packed Madison Square Garden speech and successful visit to the White House. Out of the many things on the agenda, intellectual property (IP) seemed to be a major consideration. He planned to encourage more foreign investment from America with his theme of "declaring India open for business."

As the world’s third largest economy, stronger IP regulation will go a long way to attract more foreign companies fearful of entering a market bogged down by red tape and inefficient IP enforcement, while at the same time spurring innovation and growth locally. The US Chamber of Commerce encouraged President Obama to press the Prime Minister to remove the barriers to fair trade, which apart from restrictions on foreign direct investment, include stronger IP regulations and enforcement mechanisms. Earlier this month Commerce and Industry Minister of India Sitharaman claimed that the government plans to pass an IP policy within 6 months.

In the 2014 Special 301 report published by the office of the US Trade Representatives, India was listed on the Priority Watch List due to its lacklustre IP policies. The department is hopeful that India's change in government, following its recent election, will help encourage joint efforts to create an environment for intellectual property protection and enforcement.   

Having a strong IP protection regiment in place will encourage entrepreneurs and startups from growing in a country rife with creativity and the market to support growth. Presently even if someone is innovative and driven, there are paper-thin regulations preventing larger, established companies from running with such business models and leaving a fledgling startup in the dust. According to a report published by the International Property Rights Index, countries with strong IP rights have been shown to have a higher GDP and household incomes. More startups and entrepreneurs mean more jobs, which for a country with a population over 1.21 billion is a major government priority.

Patrick Kilbride, Executive Director of the Global Intellectual Property Center, has stated that although the present environment for IP regulation in India is very poor, he welcomes their plans to review their policy. Considering Obama once stated that US-India relations was going to be the defining partnership of the 21st century, we can only wait to see what policy changes are instituted in the coming months.  

For entrepreneurs and startups planning to expand into foreign countries, it is imperative to understand the laws in place. Despite most countries being signatories to the GATT and Madrid Protocol, international trade agreements that guarantee universal recognition of IP rights, enforcement mechanisms are not always ideal.


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