The Impact of Patents on Innovation, Technology Transfer and Health: A Pre- and Post-TRIPs Analysis of India's Pharmaceutical Industry

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Abstract

The debate surrounding the World Trade Organization's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement indicates that patents matter for development. Yet literature on the geography of knowledge transfer shows that knowledge is spatially sticky, suggesting that the impact of patents can be exaggerated. Using interview evidence, this paper explores how Indian pharmaceutical firms have responded to changes in patent law, including the introduction of more extensive patent protection in 2005 as a condition of TRIPs. A regime of limited patent protection for over three decades prior to TRIPs facilitated informal knowledge transfer and the emergence of a pharmaceutical industry with significant domestic capabilities. Contrary to some expectations, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has continued to grow post-TRIPs, with large domestic firms becoming involved in more formal technology transfer as part of an increasingly collaborative relationship with multinationals. This trend is also driven by a focus on the markets of developed countries, raising questions for the future sustainability of India's low-priced medicines. While changes in patent law can facilitate or inhibit a variety of aspects of development, the adaptation of the Indian pharmaceutical industry suggests that their impact must be related to the broader institutional setting, particularly the underlying domestic capabilities. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-406
Number of pages22
JournalNew Political Economy
Volume19
Issue number3
Early online date29 May 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • development
  • India
  • patents
  • pharmaceuticals
  • TRIPs

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute

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