By presidential decree of this week, India met a World Trade Organization (WTO) commitment to recognize foreign patents from Jan. 1, 2005. The change will become law if ratified by parliament at its next session in February, 2005. The new rules do not apply to drugs patented before 1995. The new law has compulsory licensing provisions allowing the government to force patent-holders to grant licenses to local firms in case of national emergencies or for exporting medicine to countries facing public health emergencies, provisions permitted under the WTO and already utilized by some countries in the AIDS area.
India can remain a production center. India has more than 70 U.S.-approved manufacturing plants -- the most in the world outside the United States -- and can remain a production hub because of its cheap, skilled labour. GlaxoSmithKline has already signed a drug research partnership with Ranbaxy, India's top drug maker by sales [recall past patent fights].