CCPA Introduces New Guidelines to Ban Surrogate Advertising  

In the latest development in the advertising space, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) under the Department of Consumer Affairs has introduced ‘Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022’. These guidelines aim to curb misleading advertisements and endorsers by putting a complete ban on surrogate advertising effective June 09, 2022. These new guidelines will apply to all advertisements irrespective of the form, format, or platform. 

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, provides for ‘misleading advertisements’ under Section 2(28).

Section 2(28): “Misleading advertisement” in relation to any product or service means an advertisement that— (i) falsely describes such product or service; or (ii) gives a false guarantee to or is likely to mislead the consumers as to the nature, substance, quantity or quality of such product or service; or (iii) conveys an express or implied representation which, if made by the manufacturer or seller or service provider thereof, would constitute an unfair trade practice; or (iv) deliberately conceals essential information.

The new guidelines touch upon each sub-section of section 2(28) and provide further definitions to include conditions for non-misleading and valid advertisements, definitions for bait and free-claim advertisements, and the complete ban on surrogate/indirect advertisements.

 

Salient Features  

 

Bait Advertising  

An advertisement in which goods, products or services are offered for sale at a low price to attract consumers. The guidelines lay down that:

  • The ad should not entice consumers to buy the goods or services without a reasonable prospect of selling them at a price offered in the advertisement.
  • There should be an adequate supply of the advertised goods or services to meet the demand created as a result of the advertisement.
  • The advertisement should state that the stock is limited; if the ad is to assess the demand, the same should be stated, and it should not omit restrictions regarding the availability of goods or services.

 

Free Claim Advertisement 

The advertisement should make clear the extent of commitment that a consumer shall make to take advantage of a free offer and should not use the term “free trial” to describe an offer that promises to pay the money back to the consumer in case of non-satisfaction if it requires the consumer to make a non-refundable purchase. Free claims should not be made in the advertisement –

  • If the consumers have to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding to the ad or packing, handling or administration of free goods or services or if the price has been increased (except where such increase results from factors unrelated to the cost of promotion) or when the quality or quantity of goods or services has been reduced;
  • If an element of the package is included in the price, it should not be advertised as free.

 

Advertisements Targeting Children

In addition to taking measures to protect the general public from being misled, the CCPA has also laid down measures to protect the sensitive and impressionable minds of the younger generations.

  • It provides that advertisements that target or address children shall not condone or encourage activities that are dangerous for children or take advantage of their inexperience, and/or encourages practices that are detrimental to children’s wellbeing, etc.;
  • Advertisements should not be such as to develop negative body image in children or give any impression that such goods, product or service is better than the natural or traditional food which children may be consuming.
  • Advertisement for junk foods, including chips, carbonated beverages and such other snacks and drinks, should not be advertised during a program meant for children or on a channel meant exclusively for children.
  • The Guidelines also prohibit advertisers from featuring children and personalities from sports, music or cinema for products requiring  a health warning or for products children cannot purchase

 

Due Diligence Endorsers

The guidelines clearly state that the endorsements should reflect the genuine, reasonably current opinion of the endorser regarding their representation. Such endorsement must be based on adequate information or experience with the goods or services and must not be deceptive. Foreign professionals are barred from making endorsements in all circumstances where Indian professionals are barred.

If a connection between the trader/manufacturer and the endorser exists, such connection should be disclosed if such information is likely to affect the value or credibility of the endorsement and the audience does not reasonably expect the link.

 

Disclaimers 

While laying down provisions for disclaimers in advertisements, the Guidelines state that a disclaimer may expand or clarify the main offer but cannot contradict or hide the material claim made in the advertisement or attempt to correct a misleading claim made in the ad. Further, it provides that a disclaimer should be in the same language and font as the claim made in the advertisement and that the placement of the disclaimer shall be at a prominent and visible place on the packaging (ideally be on the same panel). Also, if the claim is presented as a voiceover, the disclaimer shall be displayed in sync with the voiceover and at the same speed as the original claim made in the advertisement.

Apart from the features mentioned above, the guidelines also stipulate specific duties on the manufacturer, service provider, advertiser, or advertising agency to ensure compliance in advertisements, which primarily deals with the veracity of the information/claims made in the advertisements. These guidelines are to be read as part and parcel of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, and the non-compliance with the provisions shall also invite penalization as provided in section 21 of the Act.

These guidelines will also apply to government advertisements issued by PSUs engaged in providing consumer services along with those issued by private agencies. Moreover, the advertising guidelines for self-regulation issued by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) will also apply simultaneously.

 

Conclusion 

In the last few years, the regulatory bodies have undertaken many reformations and measures to control how and what is advertised. As our country is moving towards digitization, the need of the hour is to closely monitor the content that is made available to the public, mainly on online social media platforms. The guidelines intend to protect the interests of consumers by introducing more transparency and coherence in the way advertisements are published so that consumers can make informed decisions.

 

 

You may read our blog post detailing surrogate advertising and its enforceability for a deeper understanding of the issues.  

Image Credits: Photo by Dennis Maliepaard on Unsplash

The guidelines also stipulate specific duties on the manufacturer, service provider, advertiser, or advertising agency to ensure compliance in advertisements, which primarily deals with the veracity of the information/claims made in the advertisements. These guidelines are to be read as part and parcel of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, and the non-compliance with the provisions shall also invite penalization as provided in Section 21 of the Act.

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Appointment of CoAs: A Hail Mary by Courts to Save Indian Sports? 

The Court’s appointment of a Committee of Administrators (“CoA“) to clean up the functioning of errant sports bodies is fast becoming the norm. In the past five months, table tennis, hockey and football federations have been brought under the ambit of the court-appointed Committee of Administrators, a move that critiques the state of affairs of these bodies. Additionally, most other federations face the probability of de-recognition for non-compliance with the Sports Code of 2011, which aims to establish a transparent and accountable governance scheme across the arena.

The Delhi High Court was the first to crack the whip on the Table Tennis Federation of India. Following the allegations of Manika Batra, a three-membered committee was constituted. On perusal of the committee’s report, gross discrepancies in the functioning of the federation were unveiled[1]. The Court opined that the conduct of the federation prima facie reveals that it functioned solely with the purpose of ‘feeding into the whims of its officials’ and ‘went out of their way to undermine the efforts of the sportspersons.’

The committee’s findings were enough to substantiate a breach of the Sports Code, 2011. The Court stated that it would be failing in discharging its duties, not only towards the sportsperson of the country but also towards the general public itself if it did not proceed to appoint CoA to anchor the federation in accomplishing its duties towards the well-being of the sportspersons and the sport.

Earlier, in April 2022, the Supreme Court ended the tenure of Praful Patel as the President of the All-India Football Federation[2], following complaints of major inconsistencies in the election of its members. In its order, the Apex Court observed that “the state of affairs is not in the best interest of the federation“, thereby appointing the CoA, headed by Mr. A R Dave, to look after the everyday functioning of the federation and facilitate the adoption of a new constitution in alignment with the Sports Code.

Recently, in May, the Delhi High Court also held the Hockey Federation accountable for functioning in violation of the Sports Code[3]. In line with the previously set precedents by the courts, it would not be surprising if the Indian Olympic Association faces the music following the recently levelled accusations against it for non-compliance with the Code[4].

The issues highlighted in these three organisations are not different from what the BCCI was charged with – administrators who held on to their positions and became so influential that the integrity and growth of the sport stood compromised. Even though the BCCI is an autonomous, self-sufficient body that does not rely on the government for grants, unlike these federations, it cannot be denied that the Supreme Court’s interference in that case did set a precedent in the sports industry.

Why is compliance with the Sports Code important for NSFs?

 

As per provisions 1.2, 3.17 and the Statement of Purpose of the Sports Code, it is clear that the National Sports Federations were envisaged to be autonomous bodies.[5] However, government recognition is important for these federations to represent the country on international platforms, avail funding to conduct sporting events and be entitled to tax and custom duty exemptions and special dispensation to remit funds abroad.

Further, in the case of the Indian Hockey Federation, Civil Writ Petition No.7868 of 2005 categorically held that”… international sporting events are an essential part of diplomatic relations between the nations, and several considerations like security concerns of players, apartheid, and perceived human rights violations have guided nations in decisions to participate or not to participate in sporting events in different countries. Therefore, political and diplomatic clearances are required by the Indian teams before participation in the international tournaments and forums.”

As per provision 3.6 of the Sports Code, 2011, National Sports Federations that fail to comply with the criteria for recognition and other government guidelines issued time-to-time:

  1. Shall be unable to select the national teams or represent India in any international event or forum.
  2. Shall not be allowed to use the word “India” in its name since the inclusion of the word “India” indicates patronage of the Government of India.
  3. Shall lose its “All India” status and may be unable to regulate and control the relevant sports discipline in the country.

It is also important to note that non-recognition of an NSF can also prove to be detrimental to the sportspersons associated with it in the following ways:

  1. Participation in national and international events organised by NSFs that the Government of India does not recognise in the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports shall not be considered for appointment to government jobs under the sports quota.
  2. Sportspersons of unrecognised NSFs may not be able to get admissions under the sports quota in schools and colleges.
  3. Sportspersons competing in national championships organised by NSFs not recognised by the Government of India in the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports are not eligible for railway or other concessions.

 

Impact- Appointment of CoAs and the Players 

 

Non-recognition of an NSF strips it of the power to regulate the sport nationally and gain access to government grants and incentives. It also prevents the federation from selecting teams and representing the sport at international events. This year, the Delhi High Court held that Taekwondo India is not a recognised federation for the sport in the country, thereby having no authority to hold trials for the selection of teams[6] for the upcoming Asian Championship. SAI (Sports Authority of India) was directed to step in[7], following which trials were notified to take place from May 22nd in Lucknow. However, World Taekwondo, the International Federation governing the sport, issued a letter stating that the world body shall not recognise the teams selected by SAI[8].

Intriguingly enough, the International Federation went on to specify that Taekwondo India was the only recognised authority as per its rules to select and dispatch teams for the international events. Teams selected by a non-member of World Taekwondo are not permitted to compete in the tournaments, nor are the players awarded ranking points.

Hence, amid administrative turmoil, players face the actual consequences of the non-competence of the authorities.

The same fate hit the Indian football players, with FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) issuing a ban on AIFF (All India Football Federation) due to “third-party intervention.”[9] FIFA had published a Manual on TPI (Third Party intervention)[10] to promote ‘integrity‘, ‘ethics‘ and ‘fair-play’ in the football sporting regime, all of which India clearly violates. The ban means that all the country’s football-related activities stand at a standstill. India shall lose the opportunity to host the Under-17 Women’s World Cup, which was scheduled for October this year. Further, the Indian team may also lose the chance to play in the AFC Cup Qualifier in 2023.

The fate of hockey and table tennis may play out in a similar fashion. The membership affiliation terms of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), under provision 6.1(d),[11] clearly state that a member shall remain affiliated only if it is the sole authority for the governance of hockey in the jurisdiction (in this case, India). Therefore, if the Indian Hockey Federation manages to get de-recognised, the sport and the teams will have to pay a heavy penalty. Even though FIH continues to have full trust in Hockey India’, it emphasises that the member countries must abide by the law of the land[12]. IFH’s stand on the issue is very lenient and accommodating compared to the other international sports federations.

However, the fate of the table tennis players may not be so convenient. The International Table Tennis Federation and World Table Tennis reserve the right to accept or reject an entry for international participation if it is not sent through the affiliate members. Further, per provision 1.2 of its rules, a body must be the sole authority to regulate the sport within its jurisdiction to be eligible for membership in the federation.[13] Currently, the Table Tennis Federation of India is suspended, and its operations are delegated to the CoA, who were made responsible for sending entries. The officials hope the international federation will keep the players’ interest at the forefront. Otherwise, the players will continue to remain the victimsof the incompetence of the governing bodies.

Further, in an embarrassing development for the sport, Diya Chitale (World Number 3) has filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on the Commonwealth Games 2022 Table Tennis selections, citing inconsistencies in the selection process[14], bringing the Indian table tennis regulatory body (at present, CoAs) into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Conclusion

 

Following the orders of the Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Sports revealed that out of the fifty-nine recognised NSFs (National Sports Federations), forty-four submitted amended constitutions intending to comply with the Sports Code, out of which only six constitutions were found to be satisfactorily in line with the 2011 Code[15]. Hence, CoAs are instituted to allow these federations to get their ducks in a row without jeopardising their everyday functioning for the welfare of the respective players. In the absence of a strong legislative and political will to straighten things out within the NSFs, judicial intervention appears to be the only viable option. There is also an urgent need to outline guidelines that not only enumerate what the CoAs must do but also keep a check on what they are doing to ensure they don’t intensify the problems they were appointed to solve. This will not only expedite the process of streamlining the NSFs but also protect the players from the consequences of such administrative incompetence.

References: 

[1] http://164.100.68.118:8080/FreeText/temp/800777208_0.pdf#page=0

[2] https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/naw25052022cw57032020183323-419281.pdf

[3] https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/naw25052022cw57032020183323-419281.pdf

[4] https://www.newindianexpress.com/sport/other/2022/may/27/indian-olympic-association-batra-says-he-is-president-khanna-says-i-am-acting-president-2458356.html

[5] https://yas.nic.in/sites/default/files/File918.compressed.pdf

[6] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/39459597/

[7] http://delhihighcourt.nic.in/dhcqrydisp_o.asp?pn=161536&yr=2022

[8] https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/sports/world-taekwondo-calls-sai-selection-meet-unauthorised-394432

[9] https://www.republicworld.com/sports-news/football-news/aiff-row-explained-will-fifa-ban-india-in-consequence-of-third-party-intervention-articleshow.html

[10] https://digitalhub.fifa.com/m/6413cca6d9bc5032/original/MANUAL-ON-TPI-AND-TPO-IN-FOOTBALL-AGREEMENTS-Dec-2021-Update.pdf

[11] http://www.fih.ch/files/Sport/Coaching/FIH%20Statutes%20and%20Bylaws.pdf

[12] https://sportstar.thehindu.com/hockey/international-hockey-federation-hockey-india-delhi-high-court-narinder-batra-national-sports-code/article38501113.ece#:~:text=The%20International%20Hockey%20Federation’s%20statements,violated%20the%20National%20Sports%20Code.

[13] https://documents.ittf.sport/sites/default/files/public/2022-02/ITTF_HB_2022_clean_v1_0.pdf

[14] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/more-sports/others/ttfi-mess-india-no-3-diya-chitale-files-writ-petition-in-delhi-hc-after-being-overlooked-for-cwg/articleshow/91992473.cms

[15] https://www.hindustantimes.com/sports/others/sports-code-time-running-out-for-federations-101654106060299.html

 

 

Image Credits: Photo by Ichigo121212 from Pixabay 

In the absence of a strong legislative and political will to straighten the affairs within the NSFs, judicial intervention seems the only logical strategy. There is also an urgent need to outline guidelines that not only enumerate what the CoAs must do but also keep in check of what they are doing to ensure they don’t intensify the problems they were appointed to solve.

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Demystifying the Inventorship Rights of an AI System in India

In this age of technological advancement, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken a giant leap from undertaking more straightforward tasks to originating marvellous inventions. Can an AI system be considered an inventor? This question has been beguiling jurisprudence across the globe for a considerable time. However, through the recent decision of Thaler v. Commissioner of Patents, the Australian Federal Court has forced jurisdictions across the world to re-think the inventive capacity and the role of AI in the contemporary ecosystem of innovation.

Through this article, we have tried to determine the implications of the Thaler decision and examine the position of the Indian legislation on the inventorship rights of an AI.

Factual Matrix

Dr. Stephen Thaler designed the Device for Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience (DABUS). DABUS is an artificial intelligence system that pioneered the creation of an optimised beverage container and a flashing light for use in emergency circumstances. In the persistence of such a creation, Dr. Thaler filled patent applications worldwide, including in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

“The Deputy Commissioner” rejected Dr. Thaler’s patent application in Australia, which named DABUS as the inventor. The matter was contested and finally, the Federal Court of Australia determined that the AI could be recognised as an inventor under the Australian Patent Act. According to the Court, the patent would be owned by Dr. Thaler, the developer, owner, and controller of DABUS. The Court determined that the legislative intent was to encourage innovation and that nothing in the Patent Act expressly or implicitly forbids AI from being named as an inventor.

Indian Stance: Inventorship Rights of an AI

In India, recently, the Controller General of Patents recorded objections to recognising an AI as an inventor in the matter of patent application numbered 202017019068, citing the provisions under Section 2 and Section 6 of the Patents Act 1970 (“Act”). The term “inventor” has not been defined under the Act. However, Section 6 states that, among other things, a patent application can be filed by any person claiming to be the true and first inventor of an invention.[1]

A bare reading of the provisions indicates that a natural person is distinguished from others. One can also observe that anyone other than a natural person will be unable to claim inventorship. Consequently, a natural person who is true and first to invent, and who contributes his originality, skill, or technical knowledge to the innovation meets the criteria to be acknowledged as an inventor in India.

In the case of V.B. Mohammed Ibrahim v. Alfred Schafranek, AIR 1960 Mysore 173, it was held that a financing partner cannot be an inventor, nor can a corporation be the sole applicant that claims to be an inventor. The Court, through this decision, emphasised that only a natural person (who is neither a financing partner nor a corporation) who genuinely contributes their skill or technical knowledge towards the invention shall qualify to claim inventorship under the Act.

In the light of this judgement, it can be perceived that an AI can also contribute its skill or technical knowledge to an invention and become an inventor. However, a reference to Som Prakash Rekhi vs Union of India & Anr, AIR 1981 SC 212, clarifies the qualification of a legal ‘person’ under Indian law. The Supreme Court observed that ‘personality’ is the sole attribution of a legal person. Such a ‘personality’ is an entity that has the right to sue or can be sued by another entity. An AI is not capable of using such rights, nor can it perform the required duties of any juristic personality independently. For instance, it cannot enter into an agreement or transfer or acquire patent/patent application rights. It would also be impossible for an AI to oppose or revoke a patent application. Hence, an AI falls short of the standards for being deemed an inventor in India.

Furthermore, the legislative intent behind the Indian Patent Act as found in the Ayyangar Committee report of 1959[2] suggests that inventors are mentioned in a patent application as a matter of right. Whether or not the actual deviser has a proprietary claim on the innovation, he has a moral right to be acknowledged as the inventor. This confers reputation and boosts the economic worth of the inventor. The inventor may give up his ownership interest in a particular patent due to a contract/agreement in law, but he retains his moral right.

An examination of legislative purpose and current public policy reveals a desire to protect the rights of the inventor/natural person who creates IP and can use his moral rights. On the other hand, AI cannot be granted moral rights nor appear to enjoy the benefits intended by legislation or public policy. Given this, designating AI as an inventor/co-inventor under current Indian rules seems impossible until explicit revisions are made.

Role of AI and Economic Growth in India

The Parliamentary Standing Committee “(“Committee“”) constituted under the Dept. of Commerce, analysed the current landscape of the IPR regime in India and observed its contribution to promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the country in its report titled “Report 161: Review of the Intellectual Property Rights Regime in India” presented in the Rajya Sabha on  July 23rd, 2021. In particular, it examined the challenges that exist in the current legislative structure including the inventorship rights of an AI.

The Committee acknowledged the relevance and utility of AI-based cutting edge technology and machine learning, particularly in current times, significantly affected by the pandemic, in which digital technology proved to be instrumental in responding to the global crisis. Further, the Committee placed reliance on a report released by Accenture titled “How AI Boosts Industry Profits and Innovation” which estimated AI to inject US $ 957 Billion into the Indian Economy by 2035, if used optimally, to understand further the impact and role of AI and technology in the contemporary landscape and its relationship with Intellectual Property. 

Therefore, the Committee recommended a review of the relevant provisions of the Indian Patents Act, 1970 [Section 3(k)] and the Copyrights Act, 1957 on a priority basis to afford inventorship rights to AI in India. The Report also stated that “The Committee recommends the Department that the approach in linking the mathematical methods or algorithms to a tangible technical device or a practical application should be adopted in India for facilitating their patents as being done in the EU and U.S. Hence, the conversion of mathematical methods and algorithms to a process in this way would make it easier to protect them as patents“. Thereby including algorithms and mathematical processes under the ambit of patent law.

The Committee concluded that the legislative framework amendments would protect the works of an AI (either autonomously or with assistance/inputs from a human), incentivize pioneering inventions and R&D in the country, and maintain an enabling ecosystem for the protection of human intelligence innovations. The Committee maintained that the embargo placed on the inventorship rights of an AI would dissuade significant investments in the sector since such AI induced innovations would not be protected in the country.

Conclusion:  A Way Forward for Inventorship Rights of an AI System 

The decision would have a favourable impact on the holder of an AI. However, commentators have expressed concerns regarding the difficulties that may arise due to the extending of patent protection to AI-generated concepts, such as:

  • Impact on the Copyright law: A result of such a decision may lead the courts to re-examine the subject of AI authorship and regard AI as a creator of AI-generated works, which will open a Pandora’s box of judicial conflicts.[3]
  • It could potentially raise the bar for innovation or fundamentally alter the definition of a ‘person skilled in the art,’ making it more difficult for human innovators to obtain patent protection.
  • Accepting inventorship to include AI systems would elevate AI to the status of a legal person, allowing it to hold and exercise property rights.
  • It raises concerns about who has the right to use or own the AI-created product. As the AI system is not a legal body, it cannot enter into agreements allowing it to transfer its inventorship rights.

The ability of an AI to be an inventor under patent law will be determined by the specific language in each jurisdiction’s patent laws. To explicitly incorporate and recognise AI-generated ideas, legislative changes and amendments may be required in nations where plain statutory wording needs an inventor to be a natural person. In places where the statutory language is less explicit, such as Australia, the courts may have additional freedom to consider purposeful statutory interpretation and policy considerations.[4] We anticipate that all IP offices adopt a unified approach to successfully address the emerging difficulties posed by inventions by AI.

References: 

[1] Section 6, the Patents Act, 1970.

[2] Shri Justice N. Rajagopala Ayyangar, Report on the revision of the patents law, 1989.

[3] Rita Matulionyte, Australian court says that AI can be an inventor: what does it mean for authors? Kluwer Copyright Blog (September 2021).

[4] Lam Rui Rong, Can Artificial Intelligence Be an Inventor Under Patent Law? Australian Federal Court Says ‘Yes’ but U.S. District Judge Says ‘No’, SKRINE (September 2021).

Image Credits: Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

The ability of an AI to be an inventor under patent law will be determined by the specific language in each jurisdiction’s patent laws. To explicitly incorporate and recognise AI-generated ideas, legislative changes and amendments may be required in nations where plain statutory wording needs an inventor to be a natural person. In places where the statutory language is less explicit, such as Australia, the courts may have additional freedom to consider purposeful statutory interpretation and policy considerations.

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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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Delhi HC Draft Rules for Patent Suits, 2021: Streamlining the Procedure

The Delhi High Court has witnessed a surge in the number of patent infringement actions filed before it across various scientific and technological fields including pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, mechanical engineering, telecommunications, electrical /electronics, wind technology etc, since the past 10-15 years.

In a bid to address the growing complexities concerning patent suits and actions, the Delhi High Court vide its notification dated 10th December published the Rules governing Patent Suits, 2021 in the public domain and has invited inputs and suggestions of the relevant stakeholders, by 17th December 2021.  

The main objective of Drafting a new set of rules is to streamline the procedure for filing patent suits and establish a uniform structure of provisions and governing mandates concerning patent litigation in the city’s adversarial system, following the establishment of IPD.   

Key Highlights of the Draft Rules Governing Patent Suits, 2021

The Draft Rules clarify that the published rules will apply to all patent suits in India which lie before the Intellectual Property Division of the Delhi High Court. As per the issued notification, in case of any inconsistency occurs over the Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018 and the Delhi High Court Intellectual Property Division Rules, then in that case the present rules will prevail.

Further, the General Clause of the Rules (Rule 17) states that “Procedures and definitions not specifically provided for in these Rules shall, in general, be governed by The Civil Procedure Code, 1908 as amended by The Commercial Courts Act, 2015 and the Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018 as also the Delhi High Court Intellectual Property Rights Division Rules, 2021, to the extent they are not inconsistent with the present Rules.”

As per the Definition Clause Rule 2(b), it is maintained that all suits seeking relief under Section 48, Sections 105, 106 including counterclaims under Section 64, Section 108, 109, 114 in the Patent Act, 1970 are governed by the provisions of the Rule. Additionally, the provision of Priority Patent Application has also been provided for in the Rules. It is defined under Rule 2(j) as, “ A parent application, a Convention application or a Patent Cooperation Treaty application from which the suit patent claims priority.”

Rule 3 elaborates upon the mandated contents of the pleadings and Rule 4 provides the details of the documents to be attached with the respective pleadings discussed under Rule 3. It also highlights the specifications that are crucial to mention in the pleadings.

  1. The Plaint (Rule 3 A) shall discuss a brief background of the technology and relevant technical details, ownership details, corresponding suits/applications emanating from the innovation and the respective requisite details of the suit. An infringement analysis through a claim’s vs product chart, list of experts and details of the royalties received qua the suit/ patent portfolio also has to be mentioned.
  1. Written Statement (Rule 3 B) shall be inclusive of arguments comprehensively challenging the claim of infringement. Technical analysis with specifics of the product/process used by the defendant shall be included in the written statement while claiming non-infringement. Further, if the defendant is willing to obtain a license from the patentee, quantum for the same has to be elaborated upon. Details of the sales of the allegedly infringing product/process also have to be provided.
  1. Counter Claim (Rule 3 C) shall be precise as to the grounds that are raised under Section 64 of the Patent Act. The ground claiming lack of novelty or inventive step shall have to be supported by ‘art documents. If a counter-claim is filed seeking relief on the ground of noninfringement, then the requirements for a Suit under Section 105 of the Act shall be followed.
  1. Replication ( Rule 3 D) shall initially summarize Plaintiff’s case and Defendant’s case. Subsequently, it shall provide a para-wise reply to the written statement.
  1. A suit seeking a declaration of non-infringement under section 105 of the Act, shall specify the scope of the claims, the product/process being implemented by the Defendant claimed to be non-infringing and the technical/legal basis on which declaration is being sought
  1. A suit under section 106 of the Act for an injunction against groundless threats shall contain the nature of the threat, whether oral or documentary; details of any challenge made to the validity of the patent and an invalidity brief pursuant to the challenge and details pertaining to correspondence that may have taken place between the parties.

It is pertinent to note that, strict directions and guidelines for the governance of relief applications under the Patent Act, 1970 saves judicial time and resources and improve the quality of judgements delivered by the court.

Further, the Draft Rules segregate the suit adjudication into three case management hearings, apart from the first listing, namely First Case Management Hearing, Second Case Management Hearing, and Third Case Management Hearing. The Rules enumerates specific directions that may be given by the Court at each stage, and also provide guidelines on when certain specific documents may be filed, officers may be appointed, etc. 

A key concept of Hot-tubbing has been discussed under Rule 9 (iii) that provides that expert testimony can be directed by the Court if it deems fit, on its own motion or application by a party to be recorded by Hot Tubbing technique guided by Rule 6, Chapter XI, Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018. Further, the rule also discusses the recording of evidence through video conferencing, by a Local Commissioner or at a venue outside the Court’s premises; all subjected to the discretion of the court.

The current Draft under Rule 12 has provided for “compulsory mediation”. It provides that at any stage of the proceedings if the court is of the opinion that the parties ought to explore mediation, it shall appoint a mediator/ a panel of mediators and technical experts to explore the pathway of amicable dispute resolution.

Under Rule 13 the court has been empowered to prepare a list of scientific advisors that shall assist the Court in the adjudication of patent suits. The list shall be subjected to periodical review. When the assistance of the expert is sought, they would have to submit a declaration of integrity and impartiality. 

Under Rule 16, In addition to the provisions in the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 for Summary judgment, Summary Adjudication of Patent suits can be undertaken in the following conditions;

(a) Where the remaining term of the patent is 5 years or less;

(b) A certificate of validity of the said patent has already been issued or upheld by the erstwhile Intellectual Property Appellate Board, any High Court or the Supreme Court;

(c) If the Defendant is a repeat infringer of the same or related Patent;

(d) If the validity of the Patent is admitted and only infringement is denied.

Conclusion

The Draft Rules present adaptability to the technological revolution that has enveloped the industry sectors across the world by simplifying litigation and increasing flexibility of the procedural aspect of the law. The contents of the pleadings are unambiguously discussed, leaving no room for confusion, as all the requisite information can be obtained by the parties at the first instance. Further, the clearly earmarked list of mandatory documents to be filed by the litigants saves judicial time wasted in adjournments owing to the lack of availability of documents.

Incorporation of methods of video conferences, hot-tubbing etc. for the purpose of collecting evidence while providing for the filing of technical primer, makes the case more comprehensible and streamlines judgment quality across the patent suit. The Draft has also successfully addressed the issue of a lengthy litigation process by providing for Summary adjudication of Patent suits.

Since the Rules are currently open to the opinion and suggestions of the stakeholders, it is yet to be seen how the final rules would shape up.

Image Credits:  Photo by Markus Winkler from Pexels

The Draft Rules present adaptability to the technological revolution that has enveloped the industry sectors across the world by simplifying litigation and increasing flexibility of the procedural aspect of the law. The contents of the pleadings are unambiguously discussed, leaving no room for confusion, as all the requisite information can be obtained by the parties at the first instance.

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Draft Delhi High Court IPR Division Rules, 2021: Observations and Concerns

On 10th October, 2021 the Delhi High Court had issued a Public Notice proposing the Draft “Delhi High Court Intellectual Property Rights Division Rules, ­ 2021”. The Court vide the said notice had invited comments from the members of the Bar by 24th October, 2021. In a much-anticipated development, following the incorporation of the inputs from the Bar, on 10th December 2021 the Hon’ble High Court released the finalised draft of the proposed Rules and has sought suggestions by the relevant stakeholders by December 17, 2021.

 

In July 2021, the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court announced the constitution of IPD (Intellectual Property Division) following the abolition of IPAD. The Draft Rules seek to regulate the matters listed before the IPD with respect to practice and procedure for the exercise of its original and appellate jurisdiction, and for other miscellaneous petitions arising out of specific statutes[1].

 

The Structure

The Draft Intellectual Property Rights Division Rules, ­ 2021 has a framework of 41 Rules addressing and dealing with various procedures and definitions to be applied while adjudicating cases before the IPD. The General Clause under Rule 29 clarifies that “procedures not specifically provided for in these Rules shall, in general, be governed by The Civil Procedure Code, 1908 as amended by The Commercial Courts Act, 2015 and the Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018.”

It is pertinent to note that, following the inputs by the Bar, the term “Acts” under Rule 2a is also now inclusive of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Consequently, under Rule 2d “Appeal” shall also include “an appeal filed before, or transferred to, the IPD” with the nomenclature [C.A. (Comm. IPD-IT)] Under Section 62 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The Draft Rules under rule 2i the “intellectual property subject matter” for the purpose of these rules concern the following:

  1. Matters pertaining to Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, Geographical Indications, Plant Varieties, Designs, Semiconductor Integrated Circuit Layout-Designs, Traditional Knowledge, and all rights under common law, if any related to these.
  2. Matters relating to passing off, unfair competition, disparagement, comparative advertising, and other similar issues.
  3. Matters concerning the protection of trade secrets, confidential information, and other related subjects.
  4. Matters relating to tortious actions related to privacy and publicity rights involving intellectual property issues.
  5. Matters pertaining to data exclusivity, domain names, and other matters relating to data protection involving intellectual property issues, as well as those arising under the Acts.
  6. Matters involving internet violations relating to any of the subject matters under clauses (i) through (v).

Notably, the rights related to data protection, data inclusivity and other such related matters are also covered under the scope of the said “subject-matter’. The Explanation attached with the provision states that cases pertaining to the Information Technology Act, 2000 which deal with the rights and liabilities of the intermediaries, online market places and e-commerce platforms

And those “issues relating to any of the aforementioned rights, shall be deemed to be within the purview of intellectual property rights.” 

The final Draft Rules present a precise scope of jurisdiction of the Draft Rules under Rule 4, as compared to the earlier version. The Rule now states that “Every IPR subject matter or case or proceeding or dispute filed before or transferred to, the IPD, as defined in Rules 2(i), 2(j) and 2(l), shall be heard and adjudicated by a Single Judge of the IPD except those that are to be decided by a Division Bench as per Section 13 of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.”

Rule 6 elaborates the procedure for filing an appeal before the IPD. As per Rule 6 (xii)

“Procedures applicable to Civil Appeals filed before the Single Judge: The Delhi High Court Rules and Orders as also the Practice directions issued from time to time, to the extent there is no inconsistency with these Rules, shall be applicable to appeals filed before the IPD.”

Procedures for filing original civil petitions, civil writ petitions and civil miscellaneous petitions are discussed under Rules 7, 8 and 9 respectively. Further, Rules 10 to 14 enumerate additional requisite procedures to be followed while addressing a suit to the IPD.

Subsequent to the comments by the members of the Bar, the final Draft Rules have incorporated additional provisions pertaining to the recording of the evidence, hot-tubbing or other such modes of recording evidence, discovery and disclosure, preservation of evidence by the parties, Confidentiality clubs and redaction of confidential information and, damages and accounts of profits; from Rules 15-20.

Under Rule 15, recording of evidence can be undertaken through video conferencing ( as per the High Court of Delhi Rules for Video Conferencing for Courts 2021). The use of videography and transcription technology or any other form of recording evidence can also be applied. Further, evidence can also be recorded at any venue outside the court or by a Local Commissioner. However, it is imperative to note that, the discussed methods shall only be applicable if the court is of the opinion that the same is expedient in the interest of justice.

Interestingly, Rule 18 puts an onus on the parties to the proceedings to “preserve all documentary, tangible and electronic material relating to the subject matter of the proceedings which is capable of being relied upon as evidence” upon the initiation of or receiving notice about the institution of the proceedings before the IPD. Prior to the initiation of the proceedings, a party may issue a Litigation Hold Notice that shall set in motion the evidence preservation liability of the party.

Rule 19 addresses the establishment of a ‘confidentiality club’ by the court at any stage of the proceedings for the preservation and exchange of confidential information filed before the Court including documents, as per the Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018. Further, the rules state that upon a request by application the court may direct the redaction of such information. However, the rules fail to mention the party, legal practitioner, expert etc that shall have the Locus Standi to approach the court with such application.

Rule 20 elaborates upon the factors that the courts shall have to take into consideration while determining the quantum of damage for a party seeking to settle accounts of profits/damages. Notably, the rule provides that the courts may engage expert assistance (provided for in Rule 31) in the computation of such damages.

The final Draft Rules, 2021 also lay down provision for summary adjudication under Rule 27 on principles akin to those enumerated in Order XIIIA, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and as applicable to commercial suits under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. It is interesting to note that, unlike the previous version the current rules do not have any provision for summary adjudication in Patent Cases.

With an objective to curb unnecessary delays in the disposal of suits, it is apparent that the High Court has ensured provisions relating to strict guidelines for a written and water-tight timeline for oral submissions are included under Rule 33 of the 2021 Division Rules.

 

Conclusion

The establishment of an independent Intellectual Property Division is an indication of acknowledgement of the importance of Intellectual Property in the country. The corresponding 2021 Division Rules is a concrete step forward, however, the following aspects demand a more sincere deliberation:

  1. Clarity with respect to the Locus Standi of parties, legal practitioners, agents, experts etc. to the case for extending an application to the ‘Confidentiality Club’ needs to be determined.
  2. Under Rule 31 constitution of a Panel of Experts is provided to extend advisory assistance to the court relating to the subject matter of the dispute, as and when necessary. While the provision is definitely in resonance with maintaining the quality adjudicatory function, it fails to elaborate upon the criteria of appointment of the experts. Additionally, the rule mentions ‘reviewing’ the expert panel from time to time, however, the nature and period of such review has not been discussed.

The establishment of an independent Intellectual Property Division is an indication of acknowledgement of the importance of Intellectual Property in the country. The corresponding 2021 Division Rules is a concrete step forward, however, some aspects demand a more sincere deliberation

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Marrakesh Treaty: Making Literature Accessible to All

There are over 2.2 billion people blind or visually impaired worldwide, and about 90% of them live in developing or least developed countries. Considering their economic situation and available infrastructure, education and access to the literature are significant issues. Only less than 10% of books published every year are available in a format accessible to them.

Without access to books and magazines, the visually impaired cannot receive the required education or realise their full potential. With a single objective to increase access to books, magazines, and other printed materials for people with print disabilities, the Marrakesh Treaty was adopted by the member states of WIPO in 2013 (the “Treaty”), which also forms part of the body of international copyright treaties administered by WIPO.

 

How did the Marrakesh Treaty Eventuate?

 

In 2006, the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights’ Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for the Visually Impaired, led by Judith Sullivan, set the ball rolling for copyright exceptions for the benefit of the visually impaired. This move prompted many states to make exceptions to their copyright law.

Following that, a proposal for the Treaty was first tabled before the WIPO by Brazil, Ecuador, and Paraguay for the World Blind Union (WBU) during WIPO’s 18th Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) in 2009. The proposed Treaty set forth minimum standards of copyright exceptions and facilitated the cross-border exchange of accessible formats. Consequently, the Forty-Second WIPO General Assembly decided to convene a Diplomatic Conference on limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons/persons with print disabilities in June 2013.

The Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities, was held from 17th to 28th June 2013 in Marrakesh, Morocco, which adopted the Treaty on 27th June 2013. The Treaty aligns with the human rights principles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

India became the first country to ratify the Treaty on 24th July 2014. The Treaty received 79 signatures in the first twelve months that it was open for signatures, and it entered into force on 30th September 2016 currently with 80 Contracting Parties on board.

 

Salient Features of the Marrakesh Treaty

 

Definitions Under the Marrakesh Treaty:

“Works” are defined to mean literary and artistic works within the meaning of Article 2(1) of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

“Beneficiary Persons” is defined as someone affected by one or more in a range of disabilities that interfere with the effective reading of printed material. This definition includes visually impaired persons and those with a physical disability that prevents them from holding and manipulating a book.

The definition of “Accessible format copy” is broad and covers any format that permits a person with a visual impairment or other print disability to access the content as feasibly and comfortably as a person without such a disability, including digital formats. The accessible format copy is used exclusively by beneficiary persons. It must respect the integrity of the original work, taking due consideration the changes needed to make the work accessible in the alternative format and the accessibility needs of the beneficiary persons.

“Authorised entity” is defined as an entity authorized or recognized by the government to provide education, instructional training, etc., to beneficiary persons on a non-profit basis. It also includes a government institution or non-profit organization that provides the same services to beneficiary persons as one of its primary activities or institutional obligations.

 

Obligations of the Member Countries Under the Marrakesh Treaty:

 

Article 4 of the Treaty refers to the obligation of the contracting parties to fulfill two primary obligations, i.e.:

  1. Contracting Parties shall provide in their national copyright laws for a limitation or exception to the right of reproduction, the right of distribution, and the right of making available to the public as provided by the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT); and
  2. To facilitate the availability of works in accessible format copies for beneficiary persons.

These limitations and exceptions mean that a range of acts is permitted without infringing copyright.

Article 5 highlights the obligation about the Cross-Border Exchange of Accessible Format Copies. As per this article, all contracting Parties shall have a necessary provision in their Statutes wherein if an accessible format copy is made under a limitation or exception or according to the operation of law, that accessible format copy may be distributed or made available by an authorized entity to a beneficiary person or an authorized entity in another Contracting Party.

 

Application of the Marrakesh Treaty in India

 

The Copyright Act (Amendment) Act 2012, which was enacted in India much before the Treaty was adopted, had already incorporated a provision which grants the exception of fair dealing with the reproduction, distribution, and making available of published works in accessible formats for the disabled.

 

The 2012 Amendment of Fair Dealing Exception

 

The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 provides certain exceptions to copyright infringement as fair dealing under Section 52. The provision permits limited use of copyright material without the owner’s authorization.

The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 brought a new provision under Section 52(1) (ZB), which made conversions of work into an accessible format for the exclusive benefit of disabled persons a fair dealing exception to the infringement of copyright. This extends to the adaptation, reproduction, issue of copies, or communication to the public of any work in an accessible format for persons with disabilities, by any person or organisation working for the benefit of the persons with disabilities.

Section [(zb) 52] highlights that the; adaptation, reproduction, issue of copies or communication to the public of any work in an accessible format, by:

(i) any person to facilitate persons with disability to access to works including sharing with any person with disability of such accessible format for private or personal use, educational purpose or research; or

(ii) any organisation working for the benefit of the persons with disabilities in case the standard format prevents the enjoyment of such works by such persons:

Provided that the copies of the works in such accessible format are made available to the persons with disabilities on a non-profit basis but to recover only the cost of production. Provided further, the organization shall ensure that the copies of works in such accessible format are used only by persons with disabilities and take reasonable steps to prevent entry into ordinary business channels.

 

Recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce

 

The Parliamentary Standing Committee (“Committee”) constituted under the Dept of Commerce, inter alia, examined the challenges faced in ensuring a balance between copyright protection of the publishers and public access to affordable educational study material in its recent report titled “Report 161: Review of the Intellectual Property Rights Regime in India” presented in the Rajya Sabha on 23rd July 2021.

The Committee observed that the fair use exception is having a detrimental impact on the publishing industry and authors who are mainly dependent on royalties. On the other hand, it also observed that protection of copyrights of publishers and authors which encourages enrichment of quality books and public accessibility of such works at an affordable rate counterbalanced to maintain the overall literary culture and image of the country. Hence, in order to overcome this conflict, the Committee made the following recommendation:

  • Section 52(1) of the Copyright Act, 1957 should be amended to facilitate a fair and equitable ecosystem of literary culture in the country by allowing reprographic works in Government-owned educational institutions and storing it in libraries for their easy access to students as well as stipulating limitations to unrestricted commercial grants to copy books and literary works and storage of copied works in digital formats.
  • Libraries should be upgraded to provide easy access to the works of foreign publishers by the students
  • The earliest implementation of National Mission on Libraries (NML), a Government of India initiative to modernize and digitally link close to 9,000 public libraries across the country works.
  • A comprehensive study of the Berne Convention provisions regarding Protection of Literary and Artistic Works to promote a regime of copyright which will be of advantage to both copyright holders and the public.
 

Compulsory License to Reproduce Published Work for the Benefit of Disabled for Profit

 

In addition to the fair dealing exceptions, the Amendment also provides for Compulsory Licensing to any person working for the benefit of the disabled to publish any work on which copyright exists.[1]

Considering the more significant public interest involved in the license proceedings, the Act mandates that Courts shall make necessary endeavors to dispose of such applications within two months from the date of receipt of the application.

 

Reproduction and Cross-border Exchange of Published Works

 

In line with the Treaty’s commitment to make accessible format works available to the beneficiaries across the boundaries, WIPO in June 2014 established the Accessible Books Consortium (“Consortium”). This public-private collaboration brings together all the key players, including the organisers, beneficiaries, publishers, and authors. It is a multiparty collaboration that offers books in an accessible format to blind and prints disabled people across the globe.

As of now, the Consortium holds over six lakhs books in accessible formats in over 80 languages in 93 partnered libraries that are available without legal formalities to the beneficiaries and organisations that assist such people. The Treaty also allows unlocking of Digital Rights Management Amazon Kindle (DRM) book, which can then be reproduced in Braille format and made available to the beneficiaries without the prior consent of the copyright holders.

In India, the Consortium initially covered two states, i.e., Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, by providing support of converting books from standard IX to XII in accessible formats and offering reading assistant devices at a subsidised cost.

The India chapter started with the Daisy Forum of India (“DFI”), which in collaboration with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities (NIEPVD), and the Government of India; launched Sugamya Pustakalaya, India’s first and most significant collection of accessible books hosting over 6.75 lakhs in accessible formats across in as many as 17 languages across DFI libraries.

Since then, multiple NGOs, libraries, Online databases, software programmes have been established. Saksham Trust, a Delhi-based NGO working for the exact cause, is another such organisation.[2] Also, various reading softwares have been developed, such as the INDO-NVDA software, making computers accessible for visually impaired people.

 

Conclusion

 

While India has one of the most progressive copyright exceptions for the benefit of the disabled globally, it is pertinent to note that India hasn’t fully incorporated provisions of the Treaty in her national law. Provisions related to cross-border availability, privacy, and cooperation remain absent. To achieve the objective of the Treaty, it is pertinent that all Contracting Parties comply with their obligations to foster an accessible environment for the disabled.

Image Credits:

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

While India has one of the most progressive copyright exceptions for the benefit of the disabled globally, it is pertinent to note that India hasn’t fully incorporated provisions of the Treaty in her national law. Provisions related to cross-border availability, privacy, and cooperation remain absent.

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Online Games Involving Money Now Banned in Karnataka

In a major setback to the Online Gaming platforms and all other gaming entities in Karnataka falling under the category of wagering or betting, the Karnataka Government on 5th October 2021 notified the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021, (“Act”/”Amendment”) which prohibited all forms of online gaming involving a transfer of money.

The controversial legislation comes in the backdrop of the upcoming T20 World Cup involving a huge stake for online gaming companies, including MPL, Dream11, to name a few. Further, it is said to damage Bangalore/Karnataka’s position as the country’s start-up capital which houses about 92 gaming companies and employs over 4,000 persons. 

Key Amendments Made Through the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021

The Amendment widened the scope of certain definitions under Section 2 of the Act. Some of the key amendments are:  

The definition of the term “Gaming” under Section 2(7) has been revised to include online games that involve “all forms of wagering or betting, including in the form of tokens valued in terms of money paid before or after issue of it, or electronic means and virtual currency, electronic transfer of funds in connection with any game of chance“.

Similarly, Section 2(11) that defines “Instruments of gaming” has been substantially expanded and now includes any article used or intended to be used as a subject or means of gaming, including computers, computer system, mobile app or internet or cyberspace, virtual platform, computer network, computer resource, any communication device, electronic applications, software and accessory or means of online gaming, any document, register or record or evidence of any gaming in electronic or digital form, the proceeds of any online gaming as or any winning or prizes in money or otherwise distributed or intended to be distrusted in respect of any gaming“.

The Amendment has also introduced a new Section 12(A) that defines “online gaming” as “games as defined in clause (7) played online by means of instruments of gaming, computer, computer resource, computer network, computer system or by mobile app or internet or any communication device, electronic application, software or on any virtual platform;

Further, Section 78 has been amended to criminalize activities related to opening certain forms of gaming centres and penalize anyone who opens, keeps or uses cyber cafes, computer resources, mobile apps, the internet, or any communication device as defined in the IT Act for online gaming. Offences under Section 78 have been made cognizable and bailable.

The Amendment has also increased the nature of, and scope of punishments for various offences. Offences under Section 78 and Section 87 of the Act that deals with gaming in public streets are punishable with imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to ten thousand rupees. 

Punishments under Section 79, which criminalizes keeping common gaming house, and Section 80, which criminalizes gaming in common gaming-house, have been increased to imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to one lakh rupees. 

Previously, Sections 79 and Section 80 did not apply to wager in games of pure skill. The Amendment removed this exception, bringing games of skill as well under the purview of the ban.

Judicial Stand on Similar Bans Placed on Online Gaming

Recently in the case of Junglee Games v. State of Tamil Nadu[1], the Madras High Court struck down the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, which was similar to the Amendment in Karnataka, holding that such a blanket ban was excessive and disproportionate and that it was violative of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

The Rajasthan High Court in Saahil Nalwaya v. State of Rajasthan and Ors. [2] held that online fantasy sports, which functions under the Charter for Online Fantasy Sports Platforms of the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports, the self-regulatory body in the online fantasy gaming industry which we have discussed before, are protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court in Avinash Mehrotra v. The State of Rajasthan[3], dismissed an SLP from a decision of the High Court of Rajasthan, thereby upholding the judgements of the Rajasthan High Court, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and the Bombay High Court, that games such as Dream11 do not involve any commission of the offence of gambling and betting.

Considering these judicial stands, the constitutional and legal validity of the Amendment is also in question, and the Amendment will likely be challenged in Court.

 

Effects of the Amendment Banning Online Gaming in Karnataka

Immediately after the Amendment Act was notified, Online platforms started geotagging and blocking access to their apps for users in Karnataka. While MPL and PayTM First seem to have blocked access to their users in Karnataka, some other online fantasy sports apps are still trying to interpret and adhere to the new legislation.

Industry experts predict that the ban will impact over 10% of online transactions in the country and will cause around 7-12% loss of revenue to the online gaming industry other than damaging the investor-friendly tag of Karnataka. 

 

The Way Forward

This move is the latest of the numerous attempts by legislatures in different States of the Country to ban online gaming. Such actions are criticized for showcasing the misplaced concern of the legislature for online games, and critics advocate for regulation instead of an outright ban. While clarity is needed and perhaps the rules which are yet to be framed may help clear the air, the Gaming industry may not wait until then from moving to Court challenging the blanket ban.

References

[1] (2021) SCC OnLine Mad 2762.

[2] D.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 2026/2021.

[3] SLP (Civil) Diary No. 18478/2020.

 

Image Credits: Photo by Aidan Howe on Unsplash

The order of the Mumbai Tribunal has, indeed, widened the scope of ‘onus’ placed on the assessee to prove the genuineness of a particular transaction. Such ‘onus’ will not be deemed to be discharged by merely filing the documents before the tax authorities, but the assessee would have to go one step further to justify the rationale of such transactions in order to prove that the transaction has not been entered as a colorable device to defraud the Revenue.

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