Retired Delhi High Court judge, Justice Manmohan Singh has been appointed as the Chairperson of the INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY APPELLATE BOARD (IPAB) with effect from 1st of January 2018.
The Madras High court recently dismissed a petition in Mannivanan v. IPAB & Ors. The petitioner in this case, K. Manivannan is a manufacturer of a machine that is used to thresh paddy. Respondent, M. Mani had filed an infringement suit against the petitioners. Countering this, the petitioners filed for revocation of the respondent’s patent, which was eventually dismissed by the IPAB. A writ was filed by the petitioner in the Madras High Court challenging the order of the IPAB maintaining the patent. The Madras High Court dismissed the writ petition challenging the dismissal of a revocation application by the IPAB.
The petitioner argued for revocation on grounds of lack of novelty and that apart, from lack on Novelty by prior publication, the invention claimed by the 3rd Respondent, was fully anticipated by prior public knowledge and also referred to many advertisements published in various Tamil Dailies from the year 2000 till the date of filing of the Application for Patent by the 3rd Respondent. The petitioner also argued that the respondent’s patent was a mere rearrangement of known devices, and therefore falls under section 3(f).
The primordial plea taken on behalf of the Petitioner is that the 3rd Respondent/Patentee had made some minor changes to the invented machine of the Petitioner in particular using the plates instead of studs and further that, the Patentee had fraudulently filed the Application for grant of Patent on 14.09.2004 keeping entire technology of the Petitioner, but making variation in respect of studs and filter.
On analysing the machine of the petitioner and the respondent, the Court said that the two machines were different. The “constructional features” of the respondent’s machine are sufficiently different from the petitioner’s and would constitute an invention. The respondent’s machine used thresher roller instead of rotor studs to beat raw material and thresher vanes instead of helix plates for the threshing operation. The Court further held that the difference between the two machines lies in the distinction between a ‘claim’ and a ‘disclosure’. ‘Claims’ of another patent would result in infringement, while a ‘disclosure’ would take away from the novelty of the other patent. An infringement would always imply a lack of novelty, but the opposite need not be true.
As per the court the claims as worded appear to be distinct. For fuller and better appreciation, the Appellate Board had pointed the difference in the constructional features and the distinct factors to the words employed by the respective parties. The Court also agreed with the Appellate Boards finding at paragraph 12 of its impugned order that the copies of the Tamil dailies relating to the advertisements, do not show any constructional aspects or the important features of the threshing cum separating machine. The Patentee on the other hand had specifically characterized the inventive features in his principal claim defining the scope of the invention and therefore not anticipated by prior knowledge as well.
The court did find that the respondent’s machine could not be a rearrangement of known devices under Section 3(f).
The Bombay High Court’s division bench has set aside the order of the IPAB revoking Chemtura’s patent IN213608 and has directed the Controller of Patents to restore the patent on the e-register ( Order dated 19-06-2017 ).
IPAB had earlier revoked Chemtura’s Patent for non compliance of section 8 and lack of inventive step. Chemtura filed a writ against the decision in the Bombay High Court.
The facts of the case are as follows: –
- Uniroyal Chemical Company Inc. (the predecessor of Chemtura) filed a National Phase Patent Application being IN/PCT/2001/00752/MUM before Patent Office with respect to the invention titled ‘A Bearing Pad Assembly’
- IPO on 9th January, 2008 granted patent to Chemtura after examining the same
- Revocation Petition being ORA/14/2009/PT/MUM was filed before the Intellectual Property Appellant Tribunal (IPAB). Chemtura filed its counter Statement along with the Affidavit to the petition on 21st August, 2009
- On 27th August, 2009, the petitioner counsel sent a letter to IPAB seeking withdrawal of the revocation petition being ORA/14/2009/PT/MUM. On 12th October, 2009 the Registry on behalf of IPAB sent a letter calling upon petitioner to file a Miscellaneous Petition seeking withdrawal of the said revocation petition
- Thereafter on 7th October, 2010 a hearing on the said revocation petition came to be posted under the caption ‘FOR WITHDRWAL’. However, due to some administrative reasons the matter was adjourned to 1st June, 2011. On 1st June, 2011 the matter was again adjourned to 28th November, 2011.
- On 28th November, 2011 when the matter was posted for hearing the counsel for Petitioner submitted that he had oral instructions to argue the Revocation Petition being ORA/14/2009/PT/MUM and in light of the said submission IPAB directed the parties to argue the matter on merits
- On 26th May, 2012, Petitioner filed a Miscellaneous Petition seeking withdrawal of the said revocation petition and subsequently, on 11th June, 2012 amended and again filed another Miscellaneous Petition seeking unconditional withdrawal of ORA/14/2009/PT/MUM.
It was argued by Chemtura that the order revoking the patent was passed despite a Miscellaneous Petition being M.P No. 107 of 2012 filed by Party seeking revocation and is therefore not maintainable. It was also contended by Chemtura that once a revocation petition has been withdrawn the Vakalatnama executed in favor of the Advocate ceases and the application cannot be heard. The counsels of Chemtura also relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court in Shiv Prasad v. Durga Prasad  1 SCC 405] which observed that every applicant has the right to unconditionally withdraw his application and his unilateral act in that behalf is sufficient and that no order of the Court is necessary permitting him to withdraw the application. The Court may make a formal order disposing of the application as withdrawn but the withdrawal is not dependent on the order of the Court. The act of withdrawal is complete as soon as the applicant intimates to the Court that he withdraws the application.
The Bombay High Court applied the ratio in Shiv Prasad (Supra) that the application should have been treated as withdrawn as of that date i.e on 25th July, 2009 and if not, at least as on date of filing Miscellaneous Petition namely 11th June, 2012. Bombay High Court further held that the IPAB erred in proceeding with the hearing in the face of the said application for withdrawal. In the circumstances, the Bombay High Court quashed the impugned order of the IPAB dated 24th August, 2012. Patent No. 213608 has also been restored on the Register of patent.
In exercise of the powers conferred by section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 (7of 2017), the Central Government has notified the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 on 1st June 2017.
These rules apply to 19 Appellate Tribunal as provided in the schedule of the Rules. Included in this list is also the intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB).
The rules provide as follows:-
(1) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as Chairman, unless he, –
(a) is, or has been, or is qualified to be, a Judge of High Court; or
(b) has, for a period of not less than three years, held office as Vice- Chairperson of the Appellate Board.
(2) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as Vice-Chairman, unless he,—
(a) is, or has been, or is qualified to be, a Judge of High Court; or
(b) has, for at least two years, held the office of Judicial Member or a Technical Member, and has a degree in law with at least 12 years of practice at bar or 12 years’ experience in a State Judicial Service.
(3) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as Technical Member (Patent), unless he, –
(a) has, for at least five years, held the post or exercised the functions of the Controller under the Patents Act, 1970 (39 of 1970); or
(b) has, for at least ten years, functioned as a registered patent agent and possesses a degree in engineering or technology or a master’s degree in science from any University established under law for the time being in force.
The Rules also provide that the search and selection committee for the post of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman of the Appellate Board, include –
(i) Chief Justice of India or his nominee- chairperson;
(ii) Secretary to the Government of India, (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) -member;
(iii) Secretary to the Government of India to be nominated by the Central Government-member;
(iv) two experts, to be nominated by the Central Government- members.
Also, the search-cum-Selection Committee for the post of Technical Member (Patent) of the Appellate Board, include—
(i) a person to be nominated by the Central Government –chairperson;
(ii) Secretary to the Government of India, (Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy) -member;
(iii) Secretary to the Government of India to be nominated by the Central Government – member;
(iv) two experts, to be nominated by the Central Government – members.
The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) has geared itself to effect certain changes in its structure and functioning by issuing four of its notifications.
The following captures the brief highlights of the same:
- Increase in Circuit bench siting in all jurisdictions: Periodicity of Appellate Board Circuit Bench sittings at Ahmadabad, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai is being increased from presently two Circuit Bench sittings yearly to one Circuit Bench sitting for each quarter at Ahmadabad, Kolkata and Mumbai thereby totalling to 4 Circuit Bench sittings in each calendar year and for Delhi Circuit Bench, the sittings periodicity is being increased to 12 Circuit Bench sittings in one calendar year.
- listing of matters in Chennai of matters of otehr jurisdiction-28-6-16 The counsels desirous of getting their matters of other jurisdictions to be listed for disposal before the Chennai bench, may submit an application to the registry for listing of the matter of other jurisdictions after obtaining consent of the opposite party to enable the Registry to place the said matter before the Hon’ble bench of the IPAB as and when it will assemble.
- 27-06-16-Notification-registration of lawyers: IPAB has started the service for registration of all interested advocates, and the registered advocates will be assigned code numbers to carry out the online inspection and applying of certified copies and will be able to avail other online services, that will be available to the advocates very shortly in future. Those who are interested in registering with the IPAB may do so at http://manage.ipabindia.org/add_advocate.aspx.
Scanning work by the IPAB: The registry is further carrying out scanning work of all the pending and fresh applications, miscellaneous applications, appeals, rectification applications as OA’s and ORA’s and the same is in progress.Hence the Agents have to submit a soft copy in addition to the existing paper filing of Applications containing the exact content as that submitted in paper.
In two landmark cases,the Intellectual Property Appellate Board treated orders issued under non-appealable provisions of section 11(B) (4) and 77(f) as appealable.
The first such order was issued under section 11(B) (4) treating an application for patent as ‘deemed withdrawn’ for failure to file the request for examination within the prescribed time period of 48 months from the date of priority of the application. The case of the petitioner was that the Indian Patent Office (IPO) made an incorrect entry in the cash receipt stating that the fee for examination was filed after the expiry of the prescribed period in spite of the timely filing of the same. The Petitioner brought the incorrect entry to the notice of the Patent Office. In what can be seen as a gross violation of the principles of natural justice, the Controller of Patents issued an order treating the application as withdrawn without issuing a hearing notice to the Applicant.
Statutorily, orders passed under section 11(B) (4) are not appealable but the attorneys of the Appellant argued that since the Applicant had timely filed the request for examination, said order should be taken as an order under section 15 of the Indian Patents Act which bestows upon the Applicant a right to appeal. The Appellate Board agreed with the submissions of the Appellant and allowed the appeal.
In the second case, an order issued in a pre-grant opposition, which was treated as a review petition under orders of the Delhi High Court to correct a procedural irregularity that had ensued due to a patent being granted without processing of a pre-grant opposition, was treated as patentable by the IPAB. The IPAB held that the order issued in the review petition under section 77(f), was in effect an order in a pre-grant opposition that was being treated as a review petition under directions of the High Court and since orders in pre-grant oppositions are appealable, the order in this case was also held appealable.
These orders have brought in their wake a stand to draw curative measures to address administrative errors.