Patent bill challenged before SC
By Laila Nasry
The constitutionality of certain provisions in the Code of Intellectual Property Bill which is scheduled to be taken up in Parliament next week has been challenged before the Supreme Court.

Petitioners -- Dr. Kamalika Abeyratne, Nihal Fernando and the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) -- have claimed that the provisions relating to the registration, ownership and licensing of patents in Chapters XIV to XVII violate the sovereignty of the people, the fundamental rights to equality and the freedom to engage in any lawful profession.

The petitioners contend that the cumulative effect of the these provisions would give the owner of a patent a 20-year exclusive right to exploit the patented invention and to conclude licensing contracts in respect of his or her invention.

As the patent rights will be equally applicable to foreign and Sri Lankan citizens (including corporate bodies), the provisions would have the effect of allowing for patent holders to control the supply and prices of such a product within the Sri Lankan market, the petitioners said.

They also claimed: "This in effect will also remove the power of Sri Lankan authorities and citizens from obtaining products at the cheapest available price and from the source of their choice and could give rise to prices escalating and cheaper alternatives ceasing to be available in the market."

The petitioners said that as in the agreement of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), no mitigatory measures have been introduced to the Code such as to allow for the use of such products without authorization of the patent holder in situations of public emergency or in the event of anti-competitive practices particularly on the part of the patent holder.

Although international law pertaining to intellectual property permits measures such as compulsory licensing or parallel importing to meet the needs of the public, the Code envisages no such provisions, the petitioners said.

Stating that the omission to include such safeguards infringes the rights of the public especially the poorer sections, the petitioners pray for a declaration that the bill is inconsistent with the constitution.

BASL committee to probe charge against ex-official
The Bar Council yesterday decided to appoint a special committee to investigate allegations that a former Bar Association official had siphoned off US $1500 from the Bar Association fund.

At the Executive General Meeting held to discuss this matter, Romesh de Silva P.C., J.K. Liyanasuriya and T.G. Gunaratne were appointed to the probe Committee.
Daya Perera, Senior Presidents Counsel, read a news report, which said monies remitted by the Daekin University, Australia to distribute among the members of the Bar Association, brochures containing information about the post-graduate course had been paid to settle against the registration fees for the LawAsia conference held in New Zealand for and on behalf of the ex-official and his wife.

Mr. Perera having read the statement asked a specific question from BASL President Ananda Wijesekera P.C., whether these allegations were true. Mr. Wijesekera stated that no money had been siphoned off and the Bar Association was not facing a financial crisis. He denied the allegations.

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