Recently, India’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce has released a report that included a proposal to revive the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB).
Previously, with the disbandment of IPAB, all pending cases before the IPAB will be transferred to India’s high courts. However, because of the problems encountered in the implementation of this decision, there has been a proposal to revive IPAB in the Review of the Intellectual Property Rights Regime in India.
According to the report, the Committee was informed about the issues regarding the proper functioning of IPAB in speedy disposal of IPR appeals and rectification applications.
On being enquired about the impact of shifting of pending cases from IPAB to the Commercial Courts or the High Courts, the Department stated that transferring of such cases would hurt their speedy disposal and may further increase pendency. This would have a negative impact on Commercial Courts and High Courts which are already overburdened with pending cases
The revival of IPAB
In their response to a query of the Committee about the advantages in strengthening IPAB with requisite manpower and expertise rather than abolishing it altogether, the stakeholders stated that the IPAB, which has been a critical part of India’s IP eco-system, should be restructured and empowered, rather than just abolishing a system that has long been a critical step in safeguarding the people’s interest. Furthermore, the Committee was also notified by the stakeholders that IPAB has played a significant role in rendering decisions to complex issues involving IP Rights while contributing to speedy and effective hearing and disposal of IPR matters.
During the last decade or so, many landmark and path-breaking judgments were delivered by IPAB. Accordingly, the decision of abandoning IPAB should be replaced by strengthening IPAB’s present structure. Consequently, timely recruitment and augmentation of experienced officers and staff, improving its functioning by leveraging digital technologies and facilitating appeals and proceedings through digital media, and development of e-IPAB forums to improve the spread and outreach would enhance its present structure.
Savitha K Jagadeesan, senior resident partner at Kochhar & Co. in Chennai stated that: “The IPAB as a body was set up as part of the tribunal system of India to decrease the pressure on the court system of India that suffers due to latency and pendency of cases,”
According to Savitha, shifting technical cases to various divisions will create a heavy burden for IP rights owners to closely monitor and take out necessary actions. She also said that since long beforehand, India’s infrastructure for IP protection has always been criticized and has fallen short of global standards. Accordingly, the abolition of the IPAB, a system that has been around for nearly 20 years would worsen things, not improving the IP legal system.
Savitha continued: “Hence the IPAB revival or a parallel court system is definitely the need of the hour, albeit addressing the latent problems in the present as its demolition would only lead to increasing pressure on the High Courts and thus pendency of cases. Therefore, rather than being abolished, the IPAB should be empowered and strengthened with more autonomy, infrastructural and administrative reforms, while it should be ensured that there is the timely appointment of officials and availability of experienced manpower.”
You can see a list of India IP firms here.