Traditionally famous for curries, Ghandi, and the Taj Mahal, India’s new image is about call-centre outsourcing, low cost pharmaceuticals, and Bollywood. India is enjoying a period of rapid and sustained growth, with recent GDP increases among the highest in the world, ranging from 7.4 to 8.9%. Experts suggest consumer spending could treble in the next 15 years. A recent study forecasts that the proportion of middle-class people in India will grow from 28% to 45% in a single decade.

A 2011 India-New Zealand Joint Business Council meeting in Auckland attracted over 200 people, including India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Ananda Sharma. According to Export NZ, “the Indian delegation included interests from a number of sectors, including coal, wood, food, energy, wind, manufacturing, power infrastructure, insurance, banking and education…, and… India is the ‘next big thing’ after China in terms of export opportunity and potential for joint ventures.”

India and New Zealand are working towards a free trade agreement which could treble trade between our nations from $1.2b to $3b within 2–3 years. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade says that no date has been confirmed but the Ministry looks forward to further negotiations soon.

However the relationship between New Zealand and India could be better. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) commissioned the Nielson Company in 2008 to research the perceptions of our business culture and values in India. It found that Indians thought Kiwis were inflexible, lacked marketing and promotional information, had a preference for transactional rather than long-term business relationships, and showed a reluctance to understand Indian culture, consumers and market needs. So businesses need to do their homework before entering this market.

IP protection concerns have been raised over the Indian Patents Act. Some say the law discourages innovation because it prevents R&D giants from extending their patents with minor changes to products. The Act paves the way for Indian companies to launch cheaper generic versions. Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis was refused a patent in 2007 for its anti-leukaemia drug Glivec, and its appeal to India’s Supreme Court was defeated in April 2013. Health Action International and other non-governmental organisations have criticised this company’s “insistent… attempt[s] to challenge the Indian patent law” (PharmaTimes). However, others say that recent court decisions will discourage companies from introducing new medicines to the Indian healthcare market.

A study released by the National Intellectual Property Organisation (NIPO) shows that huge patent growth continues in India. Indeed, the number of applications there more than doubled between 2004 and 2011. The primary drivers of growth are the pharmaceutical and ‘organic fine chemistry’ industries, accounting for 47% of applications, but electrical and scientific apparatus, including computers and cameras, are also generating significant volumes.

India, like New Zealand, has been working to modernise its legal infrastructure to encourage innovation and conform to global standards. India has just signed up to the Madrid Protocol. When this takes effect in July 2013, patent registration in India will be streamlined and it will become possible to extend patents so they apply across other member countries. This will make it even easier for companies to do business in India.

Alongside India’s economic growth, these legal changes show that tremendous opportunities exist for Kiwi entrepreneurs—just as long as they are backed by solid legal advice.

If you are exporting to India and would like assistance with your IP strategy, call CreateIP on 03 374 6098.