When properly enforced, patents aim to promote innovation by rewarding inventors for their efforts. However patent protection always remains a topic of debate as some believe that patents do not encourage innovation rather impedes it. To keep a check on this, the courts are charged with preserving the balance between the access to innovation and the inventor's right of monopoly over the patent, ensuring that the system rewards past innovation without unduly burdening future innovators. The courts are also responsible to keep a check against infringers to have the monopoly of the innovator intact.
Like in all other fields many of us think that even patent issues must be dealt by expert courts or specialized courts. Specialization refers to specialized subject matter combined with subject-matter expertise. With reference to courts that have limited and frequently exclusive jurisdiction in one or more specific fields of law, for example commercial courts, administrative courts, labour courts etc. Specialized courts are defined as tribunals of narrowly focused jurisdiction. Theses specialized court judges are different from the judges in general jurisdiction courts whose case loads are broad areas of the law and who are considered generalists. Three of the primary advantages of a specialized court are (i) fostering improved decision making by having experts to decide complex matters, (ii) reducing pending cases backlogs in generalist courts by shifting select categories of factually or legally complex cases to specialized courts, thus generating fewer appeals, (iii) decreasing the number of judge hours required to process complex cases by having legal and subject matter experts to adjudicate them.
A specialized court comes with few disadvantages as well like judicial isolation, captivation by narrowly focused professional groups, quality of judges etc.
There is a strong contention by few that a specialized court would render more justifiable protection in regard to patents. A specialized court would look into the matter or patent issues with more care and caution and best efforts could be taken to protect patents in an appropriate manner and this would ultimately lead to an encouragement for the innovators to develop and invent more and better innovations because they would always be sure of the best protection from the court.
However the opponents of this proposition believe that a specialized court would not help in rendering justice in regard to patents and a general or regular court would be the best to tackle patent issues. When we talk about India, considering the nature of patent system which is still developing and growing, it would be better to have experts within the regular courts to adjudicate on patent issues rather than having a specialized court.
Lessons to learn from the world
In UK, the two courts responsible for the resolution of patent disputes are Patents County Courts and Patents Court. The issues of infringement and validity of patents are dealt in one single trial. The Patents County Court provides streamlined and cheaper option to the procedure at the Patents Court. It facilitates a more informal and generally cheaper procedure for small-medium enterprises and private entities and individuals. Remedies for the patent owner in courts include a temporary or permanent injunction, delivery up or destruction of goods, damages or an account of the infringer's profits and an award of legal costs. Therefore the concept of handling the patent issues in UK by specialized courts prove to be a better option for strong patent protection against infringement.
On the other hand, Germany has highly specialized judges for patent matters. The judges are given specific training to deal with patent cases. Court consists of technical judges, mainly judges who have an engineering degree and additionally studied patent law. Germany's specialized court system, where cases are ruled on relatively quick manner and as compared to other countries it is much easier in Germany to get an injunction. All this leads to more filing of patent law suits by the leading technology companies.
Position in India
While in India, the IPAB is a competent body for settlement of patent disputes, but its jurisdiction is limited to appeals arising out of Patent and Trademark office decisions and to revocations and cancellations but it cannot adjudicate upon infringement issues.
In India, often there is a view which supports that patent litigation is still to be developed in India but this is not the case. Records from past few years clearly show the growing number of patent issues coming before the court of law. Though it cannot be faulted for its conclusions, some of the court pronouncements reveal a lack of appreciation for the technology in question of patent proceedings, the nature of developing innovation and the contours of sections of the Indian Patents Act. These flaws are likely to have stemmed from the slipshod manner in which the courts handle such issues and the lack of expert knowledge on patents of Indian Courts.
The position in India regarding patents is still evolving. A specialized court would further enhance the problems. It would lead to judicial isolation and centralize authority in a single court, which ultimately lead to corruptive decisions and lower the standards of granted patents. Moreover, for a developing nation like India it would be difficult to provide infrastructure for a specialized court for patent litigation. It is known that Patent court models which work in one country might not work in others because of various reasons like traditional customs and practice, budget restraints, local customs and practice, budget restraints, local procedural issues and IP caseloads. Therefore what Indian patent system today requires is not a specialized court like UK rather a regularized and structured judicial system where experts can be a part of such system and a specialization to an extent that better and fair protection could be granted to patents. Specialized and trained jury like Germany are a good idea that India can adapt.
It is clearly evident that a specialized jury to decide patent matters is not a bad idea in totality. However considering the developing nature of Indian patent system and patent adjudication a key suggestion would be to decentralize authority over patent appeals. What is required as of now is not a specialized court for patent litigation in India but regularized and structured place for patent experts in the existing patent adjudication system. However in future we can consider having patent courts so as to have speedy decisions but only if time and other factor permits.
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