The People's Patent Group: Generic Pharmaceuticals, Agricultural Biotechnology and International Human Rights

Justin Lim is a student at Osgoode Hall Law School (J.D. Class of 2010) and Student Director of the International Legal Partnership

I’m very excited to announce the collaboration between IP Osgoode and the International Legal Partnership (ILP) that will see the placement of Research Fellows with the People’s Patent Group (PPG) in Delhi, India. From June to August 2009, two Osgoode students-Nigel D’Souza and Jasdeep Singh-will work with the PPG on a variety of issues that intersect between Intellectual Property Law and Human Rights Law. Nigel and Jasdeep will be blogging about their research and travel in India, and I look forward to reading about their experiences here on IPilogue. In a way, doing so will allow me to reminisce about my time working with the PPG.

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to be granted an opportunity to be an ILP Research Fellow with the PPG. During my three months with the PPG, I was able to conduct legal research on two major intellectual property related issues that India, as a rapidly industrializing country, is facing: the state and transition of the country’s generic manufacturing industry, and the introduction of agricultural biotechnology. In addition to economic, environmental and health concerns, these two issues also have a significant interrelationship with human rights.

As part of my research with the PPG, I wrote a chapter for a book that the organization was publishing on access to anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment in India. My chapter was based on India’s generic manufacturing industry, which is facing a transition period of sorts with India’s adoption of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement. Prior to the adoption of TRIPs, India’s generic manufacturing industry -the largest in the world- was able to provide an adequate supply of ARV treatment to most of the developing world. Now, with the trade liberalization of IP rights, many of India’s generic manufacturing companies cannot simply reverse engineer drugs, but must focus on finding new ways to compete, primarily through process-driven innovation. The issue facing India’s generic manufacturing industry is finding a way to provide access to inexpensive treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHAs), while at the same finding a new role in a new global IP regime.

The other facet of my research focused on the introduction of agricultural biotechnology-most notably Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)-into a primarily-agricultural country such as India. As more Indian states are allowing BT crops to be planted on their soil, the country must be prepared to deal with the effects of such crops, such as increased water consumption, and possible health and environmental risks. Traditional agricultural practices such as seed exchange are no longer possible, as Indian farmers increasingly must rely on the purchase of genetically modified seeds every season. In my research, I also examined how India is extremely rich and diverse in terms of “genetic wealth”.  The country must find new ways to protect its genetic resources, Geographical Indications (GIs) and traditional/indigenous knowledge from the threat of bio-piracy.

My experience with the PPG was immensely rewarding on both a personal and professional level. In my role as a Project Director for ILP this year, I sought to renew our partnership with the PPG in the hopes that future Research Fellows could benefit from the same experience that I had.  I certainly hope that Nigel and Jasdeep can continue much of the work that we started last summer. I invite you all to read about their journey this summer.

For more information on the global legal education, research opportunities and international placements available through ILP, please visit: http://osgoode.yorku.ca/ilp