Tag Archives: ipab

Functioning of Intellectual Property Appellate Board

IPAB

The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), which hears appeals against the decisions of the IPO, has been dysfunctional owing to lack of appointment of chairperson. In a related petition filed by Novartis AG, an ordered was passed seeking information regarding the total number of pending cases, and appointment of chairperson and technical members of IPAB. Further on, in a matter that has implications on the functioning of the IPAB, the Supreme Court struck down Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities Rules, 2017, and currently the Trademarks Act will govern the appointments to the IPAB till new rules are framed. With these developments, we hope the IPAB will be functional soon. Download Novartis Order and Supreme Court Judgement

Justice Manmohan Singh Appointed Chairperson Of The Intellectual Property Appellate Board

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Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) is a tribunal that adjudicates appeals arising from decisions of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDTM). The position of the Chairperson at the IPAB has been lying vacant since the retirement of the previous Chairperson Justice K M Basha in May 2016. Absence of a Chairperson, and the prevailing situation at the IPAB had resulted in substantial backlog, leading to the frustration among IP practitioners.

In this backdrop, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) had issued an advertisement on November 15, 2017, to fill vacant posts, particularly the posts of Vice-Chairman and Technical Members. The rules prescribed for such appointments have been embroiled in controversy, and we had expressed our views previously. Nonetheless, the Government of India has gone ahead and appointed Chairperson of the IPAB. However, we are not aware whether or not the rules mentioned earlier were applied for the appointment of the Chairperson.

The new Chairperson of the IPAB is retired judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice Manmohan Singh. Justice Manmohan Singh is currently Chairperson of the Appellate Tribunal for Forfeited Property (ATFP), and has been given additional charge of IPAB. Given the backlog at the IPAB, and the commitment required to dispose of pending matters, the dual responsibility given to the current Chairperson is a concern. Justice Singh is well known in the IP circuit, and has presided over several high-stake matters, including infringement litigation involving Ericsson and several India smartphone companies.

On behalf of Team InvnTree, we wish the new Chairperson the very best, and hope the appointment of the Chairperson is made in such a way that the appointment is not struck down in future as a result of the controversy mentioned earlier.

Filling vacant posts in the IPAB – a double-edged sword

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The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) in Chennai made an announcement on November 15, 2017, regarding filling up vacant posts. The positions are for a Vice-Chairman and for Technical Members for Trademark, Patent and Copyright.

The IPAB was set up for a speedy disposal of Intellectual Property disputes by transferring the jurisdiction of High Courts on certain matters to the IPAB. It is under the administrative control of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), which falls under the ambit of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The IPAB is responsible for hearing appeals from the decisions of the Controller of patents and trademarks, among others. The Technical Member of patents aids in adjudication of appeals against the decision of the Controller, and resolves patent revocations along with a Judicial Member.

On one hand, the filling of these posts will result in increased appointments for hearings and faster disposal of disputes that reach the IPAB. However, the filling of the posts may also turn out to be a double-edged sword due to current issues related to the appointment and removal criteria of the IPAB and other tribunal boards.

The crux of the issue arose when the Department of Revenue of the Ministry of Finance notified in the Gazette of India, the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017. These Rules stated new processes for the appointment and removal criteria of persons in the IPAB and other Tribunal Boards.

As per the Rules, the selection committee for posts of Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and Judicial Members of the IPAB consists of the Chief Justice of India or his nominee, Secretary (DIPP), a Secretary to be nominated by the Central Government, and two experts to be nominated by the Central Government. The selection committee for the posts of Technical Members (Trademark, Patents or Copyright) on the IPAB consists of a member who will be nominated by the Central Government to act as the Chairperson of the Selection Committee, Secretary (DIPP), a Secretary to be nominated by the Central Government, and two experts to be nominated by the Central Government.

As evident, the selection committee for the IPAB posts of Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Judicial Members and Technical Members comprises a majority of government-elected executives. Additionally, the removal criteria stated in the Rules places the power of removing the Judges of the IPAB into the hands of the Central Government.

The controversy lies in the fact that, despite the IPAB being a judicial body, the judiciary does not have a considerable role in appointments or removal of persons from the IPAB. The lack of judiciary independence in the running of the IPAB and other tribunals due to the Rules, has resulted in about six challenges before the Supreme Court and four challenges before the High Courts at Delhi, Madras, Bombay, and Gujarat regarding the same.

In past judgements, the High Court and the Supreme Court have repeatedly clarified that the selection committee for appointing persons to the IPAB must be balanced with members from the judiciary and executive, instead of a majority from the executive. Further, any Legislation that does not comply with this decision would be struck down as unconstitutional.

In Shamnad Basheer vs Union Of India, the High Court stated: “the selection process has been left entirely to the Executive, though the functions of the Tribunal are judicial. This act is a direct affront to the basic structure, which is fundamental to the Constitution of India. The 1st respondent has totally overstepped and acted in disregard to the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Union of India Vs R Gandhi, President, Madras Bar Association, [(2011) 10 SCC 1] by turning a blind eye. The directions issued therein are meant to be applicable to all the Tribunals…. It has been consistently held that the judiciary should have a substantial role in the selection. It was also held that the process of appointment should substantially be that of members of judiciary.

Thus, any appointments to the IPAB by the current selection committee according to the Rules would seem unconstitutional and may result in the subsequent overturning of the appointments. Further, since such appointments may be unconstitutional, the cases adjudicated by the appointed persons may face litigation from the involved parties that may allege injustice. Hence, the DIPP would be well-advised to carefully consider whether the time is right for making the appointments for the above-mentioned vacant posts in order to prevent further troubles.

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