Proposed relocation of the principal office of Chennai-based Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), or opening of a new Bench in a different city has triggered protest from DMK in Tamil Nadu. The central government is expected to share its stand on the relocation on February 5, the date of next hearing on a related case in the Supreme Court.
"Shocked to hear that the Government of India is considering relocating Intellectual Property Appellate Board from its principal seat in Chennai. Any such move would be unfair and against the interests of the city and state. I urge the prime minister to rescind this move at once," said M K Stalin, president of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and opposition leader in the Legislative Assembly.
Stalin's comment came after an interim order from the SC stated that Attorney General K K Venugopal has sought time to obtain instructions from the Centre about relocation of the Principal Bench of Madras or opening of a new Bench at a central place in the country such as Nagpur, Jabalpur or Bhopal.
The apex court was hearing a writ petition filed by the International Association for Protection of Intellectual Property (India Group), also known as AIPPI, seeking to reinstate IPAB Chairperson Justice Manmohan Singh, who remitted office in September, 2019, as the procedure for the appointment of next chairperson is not yet finalised.
Sources close to the development said IPAB's location has become a point of discussion as judicial officials are not interested to move to Chennai to join the board. IPAB has a circuit bench which travels across five cities - Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Chennai - for hearing matters in the respective jurisdiction. This has resulted in delay in disposing petitions, said sources.
"Venugopal, learned Attorney General, seeks time to obtain instructions from the concerned Department of Government of India about relocation of the Principal Bench of Madras or location of a new Bench to a central place in the country such as Nagpur, Jabalpur, Bhopal etc," noted the Court, while listing the matter on February 5, 2020. The Court also directed Justice Manmohan Singh be allowed to continue as Chairman of IPAB for a period of one year from his superannuation.
The India Group of AIPPI said the board stopped functioning after Manmohan Singh retired in September, similar to the situation that existed for almost 19 months after the previous chairperson retired in 2013. The functioning of IPAB was also affected as the technical members for patent and trademark were missing for a long period.
"We felt the IPAB again stopped functioning and it was felt that many cases were listed before IPAB and urgent hearings were required. There are cases which are affecting either patent rights or the trade mark rights. Again going through lack of adjudication for long time and AIPPI, as a leading association, decided to approach the Supreme Court on this," said Hemant Singh, president of the association and managing partner of Intellectual Property consultants and attorney firm Inttl Advocare.
The crisis in IPAB due to lack of technical member was such that in July 8, 2019, the High Court of Delhi in a litigation between Mylan Laboratories Ltd and Union of India, ordered that the Chairman of IPAB and the Technical Member (Plant Varieties Protection) are at liberty to take up urgent matters relating to the patents, trademarks and copyrights.