Green Intellectual Property

The damage to the environment has over the last decade or so been a topic of paramount importance. Changes to the same can now be felt closer to home rather than in some remote corner of the globe. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report in 2021 stating that climate change is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying”. We are at the precipice of an important stage in the history of our planet. Never before has technology reached the levels that we have now. It is time to optimally harness technology to protect the environment to sustain future generations. With the literature currently in the media, there is definitely awareness of the damage being caused.

Green technology and innovation thereof will be of paramount importance, and Intellectual Property (IP) rights play a major role. The term ‘Green Intellectual Property’ refers to the protection of innovations in the field of green technology. The UN Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of 1992 stated that Green Technology means “environmentally sound technologies that protect the environment, are less polluting, use all resources in a more sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products, and handle residual wastes in a more acceptable manner than the technologies for which they were substitutes“.

WIPO is playing a huge role in the acceleration of Green IP through WIPO Green (https://www3.wipo.int/wipogreen/en/). “WIPO GREEN is an online platform for technology exchange. It supports global efforts to address climate change by connecting providers and seekers of environmentally friendly technologies.”

India, with a huge focus on agriculture, could see smart agriculture come to the forefront. We could also see the rise of water and soil conservation mechanisms, soil re-carbonization and carbon sequestration, etc. In fact, since 2016, over half of the patents granted in India were related to green technologies. In sheer numbers, 61.186 patents were granted in this field, and over 90% of these technologies addressed waste management and alternative energy production methods.[1]

Green IP is likely to lead to the rise of a huge amount of innovation. With innovation comes patent protection. Secrecy may be maintained to maximise market position for innovative technologies that will result in the rise of trade secrets. The aesthetic appearance of new innovations will come under the ambit of protection of design rights. Design rights may also be a valuable right as the use of 3D printing grows as a potentially more sustainable manufacturing technique. The rise of Green IP will also result in the rise of certified trademarks. Software and data evaluation will also play a decisive role in improving existing technologies in an environmentally friendly way. We will also see the rise of technology transfer licensing agreements as companies look to leverage technology developed by others to their advantage. Thus, the importance of Green IP will percolate to an increase in IP protection as well.

For those who are trailblazers in the field, having an IP checklist and an IP strategy will be of importance. Apart from this, the Indian government may also need to look at more subsidies and rebates for the development of Green IP. In a recently published report, Green Future Index 2022, India was ranked among a contingent labelled as “climate laggards”. The country’s COVID-19 recovery plan favours traditional industries, which is hampering the move to greener policies.

Nevertheless, subsidies in official fees for start-ups and MSME’s have pushed these industries to protect their intellectual property. Such a change can also be effected with rebates for the filings for Green IP. With the problems brought about by damage to the environment being closer to home, it is time for India to be at the forefront of the development of Green IP.

References:

[1] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/every-2nd-patent-granted-since-2016-relates-to-green-tech-most-linked-to-waste-alternative-energy/articleshow/89420047.cms

Image Credits: Photo by JudaM from Pixabay 

For those who are trailblazers in the field, having an IP checklist and an IP strategy will be of importance. Apart from this, the Indian government may also need to look at more subsidies and rebates for the development of Green IP.

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Squaring the Snags of Online Hearings

The Indian Trademarks Registry (“TM Registry”) had always extended the facility of virtual hearings much before the onset of the pandemic. However, not many IP attorneys and Trademark Agents preferred to utilise this resource due to issues surrounding the system and the process.

Recently, the Delhi High Court, in the case of Pawandeep Singh v. The Registrar of Trademarks & Anr., W.P.(C)-IPD 7/2022 & CM 30/2022, pointed out numerous inefficiencies in the virtual hearing system of the Trademarks Registry and instructed the concerned authorities to streamline and optimise the current system.

The petitioner in this matter had filed a writ petition against the orders passed by the Registrar of Trademarks in respect of Application No. 3981639 for the mark “SWISS”. The grouse of the petitioner was that the order was passed without affording a hearing to the petitioner, which violated the principles of natural justice.

The agent who had logged in for the hearing was kept in the virtual waiting room at the time of the hearing and was not admitted. Hence, the petitioners were not allowed to put forth their oral arguments. However, it was officially recorded that submissions were heard. The petitioner informed the Hearing Officer via email regarding the situation, but no response was received. The petitioner was further surprised when he received the refusal order.

The ‘Hon’ble Court, based on the submissions made by both the parties, recorded the following observations:

  1. The cause list for hearings at the Registry is published monthly.
  2. The TM Registry’s virtual platform allows only three people to be present in the hearing at any given time, and the remaining attendees are kept in the waiting room.
  3. An order that the Hearing Officer passes has two parts, the templated portion and the non-templated portion where the Hearing Officer types out the order. The templated piece is not editable and states that the matter was set down for hearing and, eventually, the hearing took place on a particular date.

In this matter, the Hearing Officer did admit that the petitioner in the present case was not heard, and the templated portion of the impugned order is contrary to the fact. The illegality is compounded when the order captures that the hearing took place, whereas the counsel was kept waiting in the waiting room but was not admitted.

The Court remarked and directed that the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trademarks must devise a proper mechanism for holding show cause hearings by including the following features:

  1. Publication of cause list notices daily.
  2. Utilising a platform with an open link.
  3. Matters should be called serial number-wise for certainty and convenience of the applicants.
  4. Removal of templates from the order statements which may vary on a case-to-case basis.
  5. Some extra space is made available for Senior Examiners to put their brief reasons for allowing or refusing the application.

The Court held that a proposal on behalf of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trademarks in respect of holding show cause hearings on the points outlined above should be placed on record within two weeks. It may also consult the IP fraternity and stakeholders if required.

The matter has also brought to the forefront the inefficiencies of the online hearings, which stakeholders have long since been bringing to the attention of the Registry. With online hearings gaining prominence, the suggestions of the Court are the right steps towards a more efficient and transparent system that will stand the test of time.

Image Credits: Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

With online hearings gaining prominence, the suggestions of the Court are the right steps towards a more efficient and transparent system that will stand the test of time.

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Navigating the Legal Quagmire of Limitations on Trademark Oppositions

Though the pandemic seems to be receding across the world, the problems that it has created seem to be multiplying, and the legal system has been grappling trying to address the issues affecting business. The High Court of Delhi, in a recent judgment, Dr. Reddys Laboratories Limited vs. the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, sent shockwaves through the system.

The petitioners had filed writ petitions against the haphazard manner in which the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (“CGPDTM”) had handled the filing of Trademark opposition proceedings during the pandemic. The petitioners were aggrieved when they discovered that opposition proceedings couldn’t be initiated on the online portal of the Trademarks Registry post the statutory timelines of four (4) months, as prescribed under Section 21 of the Trademarks Act, 1999. However, the Supreme Court in Suo Moto Writ (Civil) No. 3 of 2020, titled In Re: Cognizance for Extension of Limitation, had extended the statutory time period in India. Additionally, the Trademarks Registry also refused to accept such oppositions when filed manually. Further, the Trademarks Registry went on to issue the Certificates of Registration even though they were aware of the requests to initiate opposition.

The Supreme Court had clearly stated in the aforementioned order that “the time period between March 15, 2020, and February 28, 2022, has to be fully excluded for the purpose of calculating limitation under all enactments and statutes, both before judicial and quasi-judicial bodies.” The CGDPTM had also reaffirmed the above order vide its notice of January 18, 2022. The petitioners argued that the non-acceptance of the oppositions was in contravention of the Supreme Court order, especially as it had been reaffirmed by the CGDPTM as well.

The officials of the CGDPTM also informed the court that more than 4 lakh registration certificates had been granted during this period. Further, vide an affidavit submitted by the CGDPTM, it was affirmed that 113517 oppositions were filed between the periods of March 24, 2020, and February 28, 2022. It was also mentioned that “6,000-7,000 oppositions have been filed during the pandemic period beyond the four-month period of limitation, and the same have also been entertained.” Thus, the CGDPTM has been accepting oppositions in a very haphazard manner, undermining the rights of those who wished to initiate opposition actions and has also issued Certificates of Registration, granting challengeable rights to applicants.

As the limitation period in terms of the orders of the Supreme Court would have been extended for filing oppositions to the said applications until the expiry of 90 days from March 1, 2022, i.e., till May 30, 2022, the High Court of Delhi has instructed as follows:

  • Opponents must send emails expressing their interest in opposing any of the marks until May 30, 2022. On receipt of any such email, even if the mark currently stands as opposed, the CGDPTM is to facilitate the filing of the opposition either through the online platform or by accepting the same manually.
  • If the mark stands registered, and in the absence of any request to oppose the marks by May 30, 2022, the mark will continue to stand registered.
  • For those marks that stand as registered, if the opposition is received by May 30, 2022, the Certificates of Registration shall stand suspended till the opposition is decided upon.

The High Court of Delhi has also gone on to caution the CGDPTM and instructed them to develop a mechanism to dispose of the huge backlog of opposition currently pending at their end.

Right holders, especially those who are in receipt of the Certificates of Registration, will need to keep their fingers crossed that no oppositions are filed by May 30, 2022. Furthermore, infringement proceedings may not be initiated against infringing parties until the May 30, 2022 deadline.

The haphazard handling of the opposition proceedings in this time period has created both a logistic nightmare as well as hampered the rights of numerous applicants. With more skeletons coming out of the closet of the CGDPTM, it remains to be seen how they are handled. The High Court of Delhi needs to be lauded for taking such a sensitive issue and handling it at the earliest.

Exciting times to navigate through the curveballs thrown by the CGDPTM. 

Image Credits: Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

The haphazard handling of the opposition proceedings in this time period has created both a logistic nightmare as well as hampered the rights of numerous applicants. With more skeletons coming out of the closet of the CGDPTM, it remains to be seen how they are handled.

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A Shot in the Arm for Innovation and IP: Budget 2022

The past two years have brought to the forefront the paramount importance of technology. The Economic Survey 2021-22 was a precursor to the Union Budget that built a foundation for a wave of innovations by incorporating a tech-forward and futuristic outlook across various relevant sectors. Drone technology, artificial intelligence, blockchain and the issuance of a Central Backed Digital Currency (“CBDC”) were a few of the issues that were highlighted.

The Finance Minister mentioned the word ‘Atma Nirbhar’ approximately six (6) times in her address. The vision of self-reliance, or ‘Atma Nirbhar’, has been a rallying call for the government in the last few years, hence manifesting the importance of this philosophy.

Green India

 
There has been increased awareness of both the ill effects of climate change as well as the various pollutants that are damaging the environment. The Union Budget took note of this with announcements for the implementation of Energy Service Models (ESCO) as well as the development of business models for batteries or energy as a service. The Finance Ministers’ mention of a battery swapping policy as well as interoperability standards for charging electric vehicles indicates an urgency for innovation in this space to reduce the carbon footprint. With an increased focus on electronic vehicles, the future is indeed bright for battery makers to bring forth further innovation to reduce costs for battery replacement as well as tackle the inadequacy of public charging infrastructure. Such innovation will lead to an increase in patented technology in the field of green energy. In addition, the impetus given through the additional allocation towards solar equipment manufacturing and the issuance of green bonds for boosting green infrastructure are big steps towards a green economy driven by technological enablement.


The 5G connection

 

The much-anticipated 5G spectrum auctions are set to be conducted in 2022 to facilitate the rollout of 5G mobile services. As a part of the PLI Scheme, a designed-led manufacturing framework is proposed to be launched to build a strong 5G ecosystem in the country. The technology will be a catalyst to innovation in several sectors such as healthcare, automotive, research, defence, manufacturing etc. Additionally, 5G and R&D shall prove to be a stepping stone into the new era of businesses being more appreciative of the complexities and importance of the IP regime to gain maximum benefits amidst a growing tech-friendly and driven market.

Wearables

 

With the announcement of a graded rate structure of the customs duty rates, the focus on ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ is very much prevalent to facilitate further domestic manufacturing of wearables. This can be an impetus for further innovation from both existing domestic companies as well as the genesis of newer ones. Wearables have garnered a lot of attention in recent times and there is a lot of scope for newer players in this field with unique trademarks whose innovations will give rise to numerous patents.

Eye in the Sky

 

Climate change has adversely impacted the farming sector and the need of the hour is sustainable land management and a change is required in the manner of farming. The announcement of the ‘Drone Shakti’ scheme as well as the use of drones to assist in spraying of insecticides and nutrients and for crop assessment heralds the advent of e-agriculture which is important for an agriculture-based country like India. A drone can assist farmers with crop production, early warning systems and disaster risk reduction. Additionally, the drones–as–a–service (DRaaS) model will act as a fillip for startups in this nascent sphere of activity and increase innovation and adoption of drone technology for e-agriculture in the coming years.

Blockchain Technology

 

Months of uncertainty ended with the announcement of the CBDC, which will act as an impetus to the digital economy. The CBDC will be based on blockchain technology, thus also welcoming the use of blockchain technology in the future as a building block for the digital economy. The introduction of the digital yuan in China heralded the incorporation of new mechanisms to adopt CBDC’s among apps and providers of payment solutions. The government intends to launch the digital rupee from 2022- 2023 and therefore, this year will be a watershed moment for the adoption of blockchain technology.

The advent of the blockchain will increase its utility in various other sectors as well such as sports, NFT’s, smart contracts, etc.

 

Edtech

 

Education has moved from the erstwhile hallowed classrooms to the living room in the last two years. Classrooms became virtual and education too was touched by the Digital India initiatives. Into this space came EdTech companies with tie-ups and a range of courses to upskill not only students but professionals as well. The Union Budget proposed the launch of a digital university to enable access to education to all at one’s doorstep. Additionally, the Budget announced a skill-development initiative in a digital ecosystem called the DESH stack e portal. The use of technology in the education sector will not only increase, but we will see further innovation in both the medium of dissemination of information as well as the advent of artificial intelligence-based learning tools and the issuance of certificates via the use of blockchain technology to name a few changes one could see. With each platform wanting to garner the largest consumer base, the protection of intellectual property will be at the forefront of this sector.

HealthTech

 

The pandemic has not just intensified the need for health-related technological innovation, but the digital support offered by AI and automation during the crucial period has also punctuated the future of HealthTech with burgeoning prospects. This has been acknowledged in the budget with the introduction of an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem consisting of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, a unique health identity, consent framework, and universal access to health facilities. This would legitimize, increase access as well as boost consumer confidence in the sector’s offerings, thus leading to more investment and more innovation. Moreover, the recognition of mental health issues, as well as the support system, proposed to be established to address them in the form of a ‘National Tele Mental Health Programme’ and Tele-mental health centres of excellence makes this discipline, which was hitherto marred by discomfiture, lucrative.

The Future

 

With path-breaking changes in both the technology at use as well as the improvements in the current technology at use, we will see a huge number of intellectual properties being created. The renewed focus on ‘Atma Nirbhar’ will encourage startups to push forward with innovation in varied fields that will optimise a market ecosystem that deploys the use of drones, e-agriculture, EdTech, blockchain etc.

There has always been a direct correlation between innovation and the protection of intellectual property. The views of John Locke through the Labour Theory and Hegel through the Personality Theory are of utmost relevance considering this forward-looking union budget. Intellectual Property and its protection will not only reward the creator for their work, but will also protect their personality in the work, resulting in continued innovation.

With the stage set for some landmark innovations in the upcoming years, and various actors waiting in the wings, intellectual property and the challenges of enforcement will take centre stage.

References:

Image Credits: Photo by kiquebg from Pixabay 

There has always been a direct correlation between innovation and the protection of intellectual property. With the stage set for some landmark innovations in the upcoming years, and various actors waiting in the wings, intellectual property and the challenges of enforcement will take centre stage.

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