India: Pre-Institution Mediation Under The Indian Commercial Courts Act: A Strategic Advantage

A 2018 amendment to the Indian Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015 ("Commercial Courts Act") makes it mandatory for a party to exhaust the remedy of mediation before initiating court proceedings under the Commercial Courts Act, with the limited exception of cases where urgent relief is being sought. Patent infringement disputes, being disputes of a commercial nature, are governed by the Commercial Courts Act and, therefore, the mandatory pre-institution mediation provision applies to such disputes. The time bound mediation procedure envisaged in this provision allows a patentee to not only bring a possible infringer to the By Aparna Gaur & Aarushi Jain May 4, 2019 In disputes where a patentee is not seeking a preliminary injunction and wants to use litigation as a tool to negotiate terms for granting limited rights to their IP, pre-initiation mediation is a viable option. negotiation table under the threat of future litigation but also allow patentees to resolve disputes in a timely manner by avoiding long-drawn litigation in Indian courts. Patentees can now consider a different strategy when considering steps for enforcement of patent rights in India in view of the possible advantages of such mediation proceedings discussed in this article.

The Commercial Courts Act: Scope and Objectives

The Commercial Courts Act was introduced in 2015 to establish commercial courts in India for adjudication of "Commercial Disputes". The statute lays down a streamlined procedure for quick resolution of high stake disputes of a commercial nature with strict timelines for filing of pleadings, discovery and procedure for grant of summary judgments. The definition of "Commercial Disputes" under the Act is broad and generally covers commercial transactions and includes disputes arising out of intellectual property rights. In 2018, the Act was amended to bring in some clarity of procedure and also to introduce the mandatory pre-institution mediation provision. Aer the amendments in 2018, any Commercial Dispute valued at more than INR 3,00,000 (about USD 4,338) is governed by the provisions of the Act.

Pre-Institution Mediation Defined

Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act provides parties with an alternative means to resolve disputes through discussions and negotiations with the help of a mediator. The provision states that a plaintiff must initiate mediation before filing a suit, with a limited carve out for suits filed with applications for urgent interim relief.

Courts in India frequently refer ongoing patent infringement suits to mediation when there exists a possibility for the parties to arrive at a settlement. However, in the absence of a law imposing a time limit for completion of such court-referred mediations, in many cases, mediations of patent infringement suits go on for months with no resolution. Mediation under the Commercial Courts Act bridges this gap by making mediation a time-bound process. In India, most IP infringement suits are filed with an application seeking a preliminary injunction. This would qualify as "urgent interim relief" under Section 12A and initiation of mediation prior to filing of the suit would not be mandatory. However, in disputes where a patentee is not seeking a preliminary injunction and wants to use litigation as a tool to negotiate terms for granting limited rights to their IP, pre-initiation mediation is a viable option.

Procedure for Initiating Pre-Institution Mediation

The procedure to be followed in such mediation proceedings is set out in the Commercial Courts (Pre-Institution Mediation and Settlement) Rules, 2018 ("Rules"). As per the Rules, the plaintiff must file an application with the State Legal Services Authority or the District Legal Services Authority constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 ("Authority") to initiate mediation. Once an application is received, the Authority will issue notice to the opposing party to appear within 10 days of receipt of notice and give consent to participate in the mediation proceedings. The Rules provide for issuance of a final notice if the Authority does not receive a response within 10 days of the initial notice. If the opposing party fails to appear following the final notice or refuses to participate in the mediation proceedings, the Authority will treat the mediation process as a non-starter and prepare a report to that effect. If the opposing party agrees to participate, then the mediation process begins. Following negotiations and meetings with the mediator, if the parties arrive at a settlement, it will be recorded in a settlement agreement.

The Pros

Instituting pre-initiation mediation holds many advantages over out-of-court interparty negotiations:

  1. Time and cost-effective. Pre-institution mediation initiated under the Commercial Courts Act must be completed within a period of three months from the date of application made by the plaintiff, with a possible extension of two months with the consent of the parties. The time bound process saves time and costs incurred by the parties involved. A recent example of effective use of this mechanism is the mediation instituted by Nokia to negotiate licenses for its standard-essential patents relating to technology used in handsets. The mediation procedure was reportedly completed within a time span of 8 months and Nokia was able to resolve the dispute without filing a suit.
  2. Patent litigations in India are known to be lengthy. According to one report from 2017, a total of 143 patent infringement suits were filed between 2005 and 2015 in the Delhi High Court, Bombay High Court, Madras High Court and Calcutta High Court out of which judgments were delivered in only five cases after completion of trial proceedings. Exploring the possibility of a settlement before filing a suit could avoid such lengthy litigation.
  3. Confidentiality. Confidentiality of negotiations with a potential licensee is key to prevent disclosure of important business strategies to competitors. The Rules ensure confidentiality by providing that the mediator, the parties, and their counsels must maintain confidentiality about the mediation. Stenographic or audio or video recording of the mediation proceedings is prohibited under the Rules.
  4. No threat of a validity challenge. A patentee must always assess the strength of their patent before filing a suit since a defendant can challenge the validity of a patent. Even at the interim stage, a defendant can avoid an injunction being granted against them by raising a credible challenge to the validity of a patent. When the patent is susceptible to a challenge, pre-initiation mediation can be a good choice to negotiate a license without the threat of a validity challenge.
  5. Assessing the strength of the opponent's case. Through negotiations in a mediation proceeding, a patentee can get a sense of the opponent's strengths and weaknesses and prepare for the possibility of contesting a suit. The opponent might reveal that their product is covered by another patent or is based on technology available in the public domain. The patentee then has time to assess the likelihood of its success in a suit. There is no bar on seeking interim relief if a suit is filed in the event of a failure of mediation proceedings. Depending on the patentee's assessment of its case, a patentee may still seek an interim injunction even after trying mediation.
  6. Negotiating in good faith. Licensee negotiations between parties can often go on for months. During this time, a potential licensee may at time engage in infringing acts. The threat of possible litigation that could result due to an unsuccessful mediation under the Commercial Courts Act would possibly motivate a potential infringer/ licensee to negotiate license terms in good faith. The Rules also provide that parties shall participate in the mediation process in good faith with an intention to settle the dispute.

The Cons

Section 12A imposes a mandatory obligation upon the plaintiff to initiate mediation. However, the Rules give the opposing party the right to refuse to participate in the mediation proceedings. If the opposing party does not appear, it will also result in the mediation proceedings being deemed a non-starter. This optional approach arguably results in the provision lacking teeth.

The Way Forward

With the option of time-bound pre-institution mediation, it is now possible for patentees to target infringers in India and prevent infringement without spending years in litigation. Weighing the pros and cons of the situation, patent holders can decide to press for immediate relief in a suit or settle the matter using pre-institution mediation.

Originally published by IP Watch Dog

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 Mondaq.com.

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

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
R. K. Dewan & Co
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
R. K. Dewan & Co
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please 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

Mondaq.com (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 www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com 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.

Disclaimer

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.

General

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