The U.S. and India have been sparring over intellectual property rights since December 2013′s Khobragade incident. This involved the arrest and controversial treatment of an Indian consul who was obtained by U.S. federal law enforcement officials and strip-searched on her way to the U.S. to work for Devyani Khobragade, then the Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of India in New York City. The issue came to a head on February 10 as the U.S. was set to announce trade enforcement action against India related to drug companies. 

Reuters reports that India has generally been perceived by U.S. lawmakers and business groups as a perpetual offender of intellectual property rights, and the U.S. has said it will bring India to the World Trade Organization to settle arguments over the ownership of intellectual content. 

Indeed, the first point of focus for the new trade actions will be green energy, in particular the solar programs. Reuters quoted John Smirnow, vice president of trade and competitiveness for the Solar Energy Industries Association: “The U.S. government spent two years talking with India trying to encourage them to move away from the local content requirement before initiating the first action roughly a year ago.” 

While India aims to ease its chronic energy shortages, as Asia’s third-largest economy and by broadening its huge solar program, the U.S. says it is filing its second case at the WTO over domestic content requirements in the same industry. (Environmentalist groups urge the Obama administration to cease its pursuit of legal sanctions against India because of the benefits to the green energy industry that could come from both countries’ industrial innovations.)

So with a several-year long battle under the bridge, the two countries likely have significant numbers of legal battles ahead of them in order to sort out the intellectual property disparities, especially as green technology comes to the forefront of the argument.


Further reading:

Renewable energy efforts hit legislative roadblocks 

Indian tech company faces increased visa compliance issues

Novartis cancer drug not innovative enough for patent, India Supreme Court rules