International Tractors Limited had filed a suit for permanent injunction to restrain the employees, agents etc. of Punjab Tractors Ltd. from dealing in tractors, tractor housings, or components similar to those in the drawings made by CMERI, in respect of tractors up to 60 HP with the exception of 20 HP tractors. The allegations in the suit also included infringement of copyright, rendition of accounts and other reliefs.
The plaintiff was granted an exclusive license by CSIR to manufacture tractors based on its own drawings and know-how. An exclusive license granted by the NRDC was also held in relation to the tractors that it was already manufacturing. According to the terms of the license, the plaintiffs could not interfere with the technology of 20 HP tractors manufactured by the defendants. The plaintiff accused the defendants of committing a breach of rights of the plaintiff under the license and of infringing its copyright.
The defendant contested the suit saying that in relation to 20 HP tractors, it was not infringing any copyright as the drawings used were different It was contended that the aggregates of the tractor such as the gear box, axle system etc. were formulated and developed by the R&D of CMERI. The defendants expressed that the Govt. of Punjab was desirous of setting up a factory based on its know-how and hence was promoted by it. Under its license agreement it was authorized to manufacture the tractors and that the defendant had been duly protected with regard to the tractors referred to by the plaintiff. They alleged the entire suit to be a pressure tactic to obstruct production of the defendant.
The parties to the suit denied and/or admitted their documents but the issues were left unframed. The plaintiff to amend the plaint filed an application. The amendments prayed for in the application are founded from the Memorandum of Understanding, Agreement and the Deed of Assignment. According to the plaintiff, know-how included improvements, developments or modifications thereof made prior to or after the effective date of manufacture of 20 HP tractors in the modified or unmodified form. They contended that the defendant had continued unabated activities infringing the confidentiality of the plaintiff, which is illegal and liable to be restrained. The plaintiffs claim to have exclusive rights, that the engineering processes form confidential information/ trade secrets and that no other party may exploit them.
Punjab tractors Ltd. vehemently opposed the counsel for filing the application, saying that it was an abuse of the Court. The learned counsel for the defence expressed it to have arisen out of the plaintiff’s intention to delay the proceedings. They also contended that the previous application referred to the same document, while a prayer was made for different amendments. Further, they stated that it seemed that the assignment deed was for the future right with respect to HP 20 tractors, which does not result in exclusivity. It was stated that the right of the defendant was duly protected as under the terms of assignment.
The Court stated that in view of Order 6 Rule 17 of the CPC, it may allow amendment of pleadings at any stage of proceedings provided the trial had not commenced and unless the court concluded that in spite of due diligence, the parties could not have moved the application before the commencement of the trial. It also stated, that using the same documents, the plaintiffs were trying to seek an entirely new cause of action and relief, changing the nature of the case, which would affect the defendant prejudicially. Furthermore, it deemed that the relief, if any, should have been sought in the earlier amendment. The court concluded that the plaintiff had not acted with due diligence which is tantamount abusing the process of law. The court with costs of Rs. 5,000 dismissed the application.
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