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Delhi High Court Suspends CGPDTM Notice Fixing the IP Applications Cut-off Date

The Hon’ble Delhi High Court has suspended the operation of a public notice issued by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (CGPDTM) that had fixed the cut-off date (18.05.2020) for completion of various acts/proceedings, filings, payment of fees and other deadlines that had fallen due during this lockdown. The public notice was found to be contrary to the Supreme Court order which extended the period of limitation applicable to all proceedings before all Courts and Tribunals with effect from 15th March 2020 till further orders.

 

Keeping in mind the extraordinary situation prevailing in the Country attributable to the lockdown announced by the Government, causing difficulties to litigants/advocates in filing their petitions/suits/applications/appeals/or other proceedings, etc. within the limitation period, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had Suo Motu registered a case numbered as Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) Nos. 3/2020 titled Re: Cognisance for Extension of Limitation.  

Invoking its plenary power conferred by the Constitution under Articles 141 & 142, the Bench comprising of Hon’ble Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Hon’ble Justice L. Nageswara Rao & Hon’ble Justice Surya Kant passed the Order dated 23rd March 2020 extending the period of limitation applicable to all proceedings before all Courts and Tribunals governed by general law or special laws whether condonable or not with effect from 15th March 2020 till further orders.

The CGPDTM had issued a Public Notice dated 4th May 2020 informing applicants/registrants and/or its agents/advocates that the due-dates with respect to timelines/periods prescribed under the IP Acts and Rules, falling due during the lockdown, to complete various acts/proceedings, filing of any reply/document, payment of fees, etc. in the matter of any Intellectual Property (IP) applications, shall be 18th May 2020, since the lockdown period from 25th March 2020 to 3rd May 2020 was further extended by two weeks, i.e., till 17th May 2020.

Aggrieved by this public notice, a writ petition (W.P.(C) No.3059/2020) was filed before the Delhi High Court on 06.05.2020 by the Intellectual Property Attorneys Association (IPAA) challenging the said notice. The petitioners submitted that the public notice issued by the CGPDTM is a blatant disregard to the order of Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 23rd March 2020, and specifically conferred the following arguments:  

  1. The order of extension of limitation is applicable to all proceedings irrespective of whether it was governed by general laws or special laws and would be in force with effect from 15th March 2020, as opposed to 25th March 2020 as mentioned in the public notice.
  1. The said extension of limitation shall be in effect until further orders. Hence, the cut-off due-date of 18th May 2020, fixed by the CGPDTM in the public notice, for the completion of various acts/proceedings, filings, payment of fees, etc. in the matters of any IP applications, is also contrary to the Supreme Court order. 
  1. The said due date of 18th May 2020 would also pose difficulties to litigants/advocates to obtain necessary documents/files and file them as per the prescribed procedures, since the lockdown would only be lifted on 17th May 2020.

The Hon’ble Delhi High Court, taking into consideration the Supreme Court Order dated 23.03.2020 and the arguments of the petitioners, passed an Order dated 11th May 2020, holding that no Court, Tribunal, or Authority can act contrary to the order of the Supreme Court. Further, as per Article 144 of the Constitution, all authorities whether civil or judicial, located in the territory of India are required to act in aid of the orders passed by the Supreme Court. The Court also agreed that the period of limitation would stand effective from 15th March 2020 and not from 25th March 2020 as provided in the public notice. 

The Hon’ble Delhi High Court hence rightly held that order of Hon’ble Supreme Court was binding on the CGPDTM and disposed of the petition by suspending the operation of the public notice dated 4th May 2020.

The Hon’ble Delhi High Court has suspended the operation of a public notice issued by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (CGPDTM) that had fixed the cut-off date (18.05.2020) for completion of various acts/proceedings, filings, payment of fees and other deadlines that had fallen due during this lockdown. The public notice was found to be contrary to the Supreme Court order which extended the period of limitation applicable to all proceedings before all Courts and Tribunals with effect from 15th March 2020 till further orders.

Image Credits: Photo by samer daboul from Pexels

The Hon’ble Delhi High Court, taking into consideration the Supreme Court Order dated 23.03.2020 and the arguments of the petitioners, passed an Order dated 11th May 2020, holding that no Court, Tribunal or Authority can act contrary to the order of the Supreme Court. Further, as per Article 144 of the Constitution, all authorities whether civil or judicial, located in the territory of India are required to act in aid of the orders passed by the Supreme Court. The Court also agreed that the period of limitation would stand effective from 15th March 2020 and not from 25th March 2020 as provided in the public notice. 

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Arraying of the unknown party as the main Defendant disallowed

The Delhi High Court has come down heavily on the tactics of concealment of real defendants in Intellectual Property (IP) Infringement cases utilized by plaintiffs with the aim of obtaining ex-parte injunction.  In a recent trademark infringement and passing off dispute between Bata India Limited vs Chawla Boot House & Anr, the Delhi High Court ruled that Plaintiff’s approach of impleading an unknown party as Defendant No. 1 was impermissible in law and directed stringent actions from the High Court Registry to control such misuse in all IP disputes 

The Court expressed its dismay over the non-compliance of the settled legal position and observed that this tactic has been adapted multiple times in IP infringement cases to obtain ex-parte injunctions in the initial hearing by making it very difficult for the main defendants to spot themselves in the cause list and appear in litigation concerning them 

Regarding the merits of the case, the court observed that Red Chief’s mark ‘POWER FLEX’ was infringing upon Bata’s trademark ‘POWER.’ 

BACKGROUND 

Bata instituted a trademark infringement suit against Red Chief, a footwear brand owned by Leayan Global, for using ‘POWER FLEX’ and the tagline ‘THE POWER OF REAL LEATHER’. According to Bata, it had exclusive right over the mark “POWER” by virtue of long and continuous use as well as multiple trademark registrationsBefore addressing the substantial part of the dispute i.e. trademark infringement, passing off, and unfair competition, the Court decided to address the way the Defendants were arrayed by the Plaintiff Company.  

ARRAYING OF UNKNOWN PARTY AS THE MAIN DEFENDANT 

Bata named Delhi-based retail outlet – Chawla Boot House, as the main defendant, whereas, the allegations were directed against the manufacturer company, Leayan GlobalThis hints at malafide intentions of the plaintiff to obtain ex-parte order against the main defendants by preventing them from detecting their names in the cause list by listing it as ‘Chawla Boot House & others’.  

This practice was declared impermissible in law in the case of Micolube India Ltd. v. Maggon Auto Centre & Anr in which the plaintiff had arrayed Maggon Auto Centre as the main defendant whereas the principal party i.e. Motor Industries was arrayed at Defendant no. 2. It was further noted that such practices disentitle a plaintiff of any equitable relief since the plaintiff did not approach the court with clean hands. It was held in that: 

The very fact that the plaintiff has also indulged in this practice is an indicator that it did not want the counsel for the defendant No. 2 to appear on the first date on which the matter was taken up for consideration of the grant or non-grant of ad interim injunction.” 

 

CONCLUSION  

Despite the established legal position, plaintiffs continue to array parties unrelated to the dispute as to the main defendant. The Registry was therefore ordered by the High Court to ensure strict compliance with the ratio laid down in the Micolube India judgment. In addition, a circular has been issued directing plaintiffs in all IP cases where there are multiple defendants to furnish an affidavit to the Registry confirming the arraignment of the main contesting party in the suit as Defendant No. 1.

Image Credits: Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Despite the established legal position, plaintiffs  continue to array parties unrelated to the dispute as to the main defendant. 

The Registry was therefore ordered by the High Court to ensure strict compliance with the ratio laid down in the Micolube India judgment.

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