India: "Can The Issues In A Given Case Where There Is Possibility Of Appeal Be Dealt With Separately? Madras High Court Replies In The Negative"

Last Updated: 20 May 2011
Article by Sonam Lhamu Bhutia and Vasundhara Kamath S

The Madras High Court in the case of Aloys Wobben Argestrasse v Enercon (India) Limited and Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) dealt with the question of whether in an event where several issues are brought forward before a Court or a tribunal and there is possibility of appeals being filed during the course of proceedings, should the Court deal with all the issues or dispose of only one or some issue raised by the parties.

Brief facts of the case:

Enercon (India) Limited had filed 18 Original Revocation Applications (hereinafter referred to as ORAs) against the patents granted to Dr Aloys Wobben, the owner of Enercon GmBH. . In those ORAs, Dr Wobben filed individual miscellaneous petitions before the IPAB challenging the maintainability and thus seeking dismissal of said revocation applications. Dr. Wobben also prayed before the IPAB to fix an early date for hearing in the said miscellaneous petitions. The IPAB had dismissed these petitions stating that the issues contained therein would be considered along with the other issues. Dr Wobben subsequently, approached the Madras High Court with a plea to grant the writ of certiorari, quashing the said order.

In the miscellaneous petition before the IPAB, Dr. Wobben mainly contended that Mr. Yogesh Mehra, who had signed and verified the original revocation applications for and on behalf of Enercon (India) Limited lacked the competence to file the ORAs. For this, he relied on the Articles of Association of the Company and on a proceeding pending before the Company Law Board (hereinafter referred to as CLB) which had directed the parties to maintain status quo on all issues that were pending before it and that no further action could be taken without the leave of the CLB.

Enercon, countered Dr. Wobben's arguments in its reply stating that as per Enercon (India) Limited's Board resolution dated 27.04.2007, Mr. Yogesh Mehra in the capacity of Managing Director of the Compant had the required locus standi and competence to file and institute the revocation proceedings on behalf of the Company. Dr. Wobben in turn filed a rejoinder to Enercon's reply contending that the Board resolution relied on by Enercon was void and non-est and therefore Mr. Yogesh Mehra had no locus standi or competence to file the revocation application.

The IPAB, after hearing the matter at length, opined that there were three ways in which the matter could be disposed of. It could consider the miscellaneous petitions and decide the locus standi immediately or could wait till the CLB decided the matter and could thus, adjourn the matter sine die. The Tribunal also had the option to take up and consider everything while hearing the original revocation application. Considering the third option to be the most expedient, an order was passed by the IPAB wherein all the miscellaneous petitions were to be disposed of with a direction to the Registry that the ORAs were to be heard on a day to day basis. Aggrieved by such order, Dr. Wobben filed the present Writ Petition.

Dr. Wobben challenged the order of the IPAB on a host of grounds. At the outset, he contended that the question with regard to locus standi had been raised in relation to the maintainability of the application for revocation and therefore had to be determined at the first instance. He further maintained that the IPAB had mixed the concept of locus standi and the concept of person interested as defined under the Patents Act and as a result, the order was liable to be quashed. Also, the conclusion arrived at by the IPAB that the proceedings before the CLB had no bearing on the matter before it, was challenged as being erroneous. It was also urged that the ORAs were filed by minority share holders and such a petition was not maintainable because it amounted to Dr. Wobben's funds being used to fight a litigation against it. He also indicated that the order of the CLB that status quo was to be maintained was causing irreparable hardship to him.

Enercon relied on M/S. Formento Resorts and Hotels Ltd. v. Gustavo Ranato D Cruz Pinto and ors. 1985 (2) SCC 152 andHaribhau Madhav Jalve v. Ramesh Vithal Choudhari and ors., 2002 (10) SCC 102 wherein the Honourable Supreme Court had held that the question of locus standi could be decided as one among the several issues. Also, as per the of the CLB which directed that without the Board's leave no board meeting could be convened or held and as the writ petitioner did not seek the leave of the Board to hold any Board meeting he could not contend that his rights were being affected.

The Madras High Court, after considering the issues at hand, was of the opinion that to decide whether the Managing Director had locus standi to maintain the Application for revocation before the Tribunal, it was essential that the factual aspects had to considered.

The Court also categorically ruled that all the issues were to be dealt with, as opposed to disposing of the case on one issue alone. The possibility of appeal was considered, keeping which in mind, it would be expedient to decide all the given issues in a case. Since such a possibility existed in the instant case, it was the opinion of the Madras High Court that the IPAB had rightly directed the miscellaneous petitions to be considered along with the ORAs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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