Competition Commission of India chairman (CCI) chairman Ashok Chawla on Friday participated in an Assocham event, turning down a request by a section of the civil society to not participate in the function because Ericsson, against whom the watchdog is investigating three cases, sponsored the event.
Earlier, the Alternative Law Forum (Bengaluru), Centre for Internet and Society (Bengaluru), IT for Change (Bengaluru), Knowledge Commons Collective (New Delhi), National Working Group on Patent Laws (New Delhi), and Software Freedom Law Centre (New Delhi) - had collectively alleged any participation by Chawla would give rise to a conflict of interest. However, Chawla said: “I see no conflict of interest in attending an industry function and giving a keynote address for a day-long seminar. It is entirely irrational to talk of conflict of interest.”
The CCI chairman said he attended a function organised by a chamber of commerce and not a particular company. “Even if there is some company - which I am not aware of - which is probably one of the sponsors and is otherwise under investigation, this is not a platform for a private company; it is a platform for one of the major national chambers of commerce. And advocacy is a statutory mandate, which have to follow as per the law.”
Ericsson is facing three CCI investigations on matters related to Standard Essential Patents and licensing of technologies on fair and equitable terms. Assocham secretary-general D S Rawat said: “It is a recognised forum for the past 96 years and it has never been alleged that we have been siding with one side or other.”
At the conference ‘Interface between intellectual property and competition law - invention, growth and new challenges’, Chawla said as the competition watchdog probes cases related to intellectual property rights (IPR), its intervention in such matters would be “cautious and balanced” to ensure that incentive for innovation is not undermined.
"When intervening in IPR-related markets, it is important to strike a careful balance so as not to undermine incentives to innovate," said Chawla. Some cases of alleged competition norms violations related to IPR issues are before the Commission.
Since licensing has the potential to enhance competition, most licensing arrangements would need to be evaluated. He noted that problems of marking the exact boundaries of intellectual property might create analytical difficulties.
"I may know exactly where the walls of my factory begin and end, but may be less sure about the precise limits of the intellectual property protection of the technology that I use in my factory. Such ambiguity could make it difficult to discern whether a competitor is legitimately competing with a protected intellectual property right or is an illegitimate competitor," said Chawla.
About his views on the draft Indian Financial Code (IFC), which proposes to give more powers to the CCI, Chawla said he does not know the contours of it. When asked whether the regulator would be giving its comments on the draft IFC, he said a decision in that regard was yet to be taken.
|CHAWLA ALSO SAID...|
“CCI will take sometime to decide on the case”
— On alleged unfair business practices by Google in India
“Probe on in respect of Bengaluru city. That is at a very preliminary stage”
— On Investigation into alleged predatory pricing by Ola Cabs
“Probe is on. It would take time”
— On alleged cartelisation in airfares
“Probe likely to be taken up in next 2-3 weeks”
— On probe against realty firm Jaypee Greens over a housing project