India: Is Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) Unconstitutional?

Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) is one of the most prominent IP tribunal in the country. The IPAB formed under the Department of Industrial policy and promotion, Government of India (DIPP) is all set to hear appeals against the decisions of the Controller General of Patents, Registrar under the Trade Marks Act, 1999 and the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. IPAB has its headquarters at Chennai and shall have sittings at Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmadabad. It is the only tribunal in India which has a global impact1. Recently the Madras High Court raised a question on the constitution of the IPAB where the Madras High Court headed by the Justice Sanjay Kishen Kaul stated that section 85 of the Trademarks Act, 1999 provided provision for the establishment of the IPAB as "unconstitutional". This judgement will bring down the constitution forming of the IPAB and required for improvement in forming the strong constitution for the only IP tribunal in the country.

Prayer: Writ Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India seeking for the relief of issuance of Writ of Declaration declaring Chapter XI of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, and Chapter XIX of the Patents Act, 1970 as ultra vires Articles 14, 19(1)(g), 21, 50, 245 of the Constitution of India and violative of the basic structure of the Constitution and hence void ab initio, in so far as it establishes the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) and vests important judicial functions on this Board.2

On 10th March, 2015 the Madras high court on the petition filed by the Prof. Shamnad Basheer gave their judgement where the court challenge the constitution of the IPAB. The Court held that the section providing for Indian government officers (ILS officers) to be elected as judicial members to the tribunal was invalid in law3. The Court also ruled that any committee constituted to select members to the tribunal should necessarily be predominated by judges or those with requisite judicial qualifications.

The Court also held that in the absence of requisite judicial qualifications, a technical member cannot become a Vice Chairman or a Chairman. Further, the court declared the provisions of the Trademarks Act important to the IPAB's composition unconstitutional. The petitioner believed that the entire process of the selection of the IPAB is flawed and baseless. Going the base of this judgement under the Trademarks Act, 1999 the section 2(k) stated as :-

Section 2(k) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 defines a ''judicial member'', which is as follows:-

''Judicial Member" means a Member of the Appellate Board appointed as such under this Act, and includes the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman'' This Section seeks to provide an expanded meaning to the word ''Judicial Member''. We would like to express our understanding of this provision when we discuss the impugned provisions.

Provisions of Section 85 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999:-

Chapter XI of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 deals with the Appellate Board qua the establishment, composition, qualifications for appointment, term of office, functioning, salaries, etc.,

" Section 85 deals with the qualifications for appointment as Chairman, Vice-Chairman or other Members. Now, we are dealing with the constitutionality of this provision. For better appreciation, the said provision is reproduced hereunder:

''(1) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as the Chairman unless he—

(a)is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court; or

(b) has, for at least two years, held the office of a Vice-Chairman.

(2) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as the Vice-Chairman, unless he—

(a) has, for at least two years, held the office of a Judicial Member or a Technical Member; or

(b) has been a member of the Indian Legal Service and has held a post in Grade I of that Service or any higher post for at least five years.

(3) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Judicial Member, unless he—

(a) has been a member of the Indian Legal Service and has held the post in Grade I of that Service for at least three years; or

(b) has, for at least ten years, held a civil judicial office.

(4) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Technical Member, unless he—

(a) has, for at least ten years, exercised functions of a tribunal under this Act or under the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958 (43 of 1958), or both, and has held a post not lower than the post of a Joint Registrar for at least five years; or

(b) has, for at least ten years, been an advocate of a proven specialised experience in trade mark law.

(5) Subject to the provisions of sub-section (6), the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and every other Member shall be appointed by the President of India.

(6) No appointment of a person as the Chairman shall be made except after consultation with the Chief Justice of India.''

Technical Member:-

The Supreme Court in Madras Bar Association Vs. Union of India ((2014) 10 SCC 1), after taking note of the earlier decisions was pleased to hold that the role of a technical member is rather limited. Though the Legislature has got a power to appoint technical member, it has to decide its necessity first. Considering the nature of the Tribunal and the steps that are being dealt with, we do not find any error in the provisions, which require appointment of a technical member.

The qualification for the post of Senior Joint Registrar of Trade Marks and Geographical Indications is prescribed hereunder:

''(i) Degree in Law from a recognised University;

(ii) Twelve years practice at a Bar or Twelve years experience in a State Judicial Service or in the Legal Department of a State Government or of the Central Government or in the processing of applications for registration filed under the Trade Marks Act or Geographical Indications Act or in teaching law in a recognised University or Institute. Or

Masters Degree in Law of a recognised University with ten years' experience in teaching law or in conducting research in law in a recognised University or Research Institution.''

Understanding the beneath of the Act, in the present case, a technical member takes part on equal terms along with a judicial member in the decision making process. The qualification is also prescribed as 12 years of practice at the bar or 12 years experience in a State Judicial Service with a Degree in Law. With the above said qualification, along with other qualifications, there cannot be any difficulty in appointing such a person as a technical member. However, the problem would possibly arise when a person sought to be appointed as a technical member merely because he works in the Legal Department of a State Government or Central Government or involved in the process of applications for registration filed under the Trade Marks Act or Geographical Indications Act or in teaching law in a recognised University or Institute. Similarly, a Masters Degree in Law of a recognised University with ten years' experience in teaching law that may be a qualification for appointment of a Registrar cannot be termed as a qualification requisite for appointment of a technical member. The Scheme of the Act also provides for the appointment of a technical member as a Vice Chairman and then as Chairman. Therefore such persons cannot be made eligible. The court in their views by the judgment rendered in R.K.Jain Vs. Union of India, ((1993) 4 SCC 119), wherein, the Honourable Supreme Court in paragraph 67 has held as follows:

''67. The Tribunals set up under Arts. 323A and 323B of the Constitution or under an Act of legislature are creatures of the Statute and in no case claim the status as Judges of the High Court or parity or as substitutes.

However, the personnel appointed to hold those offices under the State are called upon to discharge judicial or quasi-judicial powers. So they must have judicial approach and also knowledge and expertise in that particular branch of constitutional, administrative and tax laws. The legal input would undeniably be more important and sacrificing the legal input and not giving it sufficient weightage and teeth would definitely impair the efficacy and effectiveness of the judicial adjudication. It is, therefore, necessary that those who adjudicate upon these matters should have legal expertise, judicial experience and modicum of legal training as on many an occasion different and complex questions of law which baffle the minds of even trained judges in the High Court and Supreme Court would arise for discussion and decision.

Such kind of decision is first in case of IPAB and thus the entire selection procedure of the IPAB is invalidated. In reviewing this judgement, whether the IPAB will stop performing as a tribunal or only unconstitutional part will be blocked, will remains a big question for the IPAB. Still nothing will be clear from the IPAB side. This judgement will surely rise up the constitutional validity of the India's only IP tribunal.





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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions