"Justice too long delayed is justice denied"
-Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Sterlite Technologies Ltd. ("Sterlite") owns Patent Nos. IN 241433 and IN 280211 relating to a unique method of producing optical fibres. Sterlite contended that ZTT India's ("Defendant") products were manufactured in such a way that it was imperative for them to use the technical parameters of Sterlite's process-patent technology. Sterlite filed a suit of patent infringement at the Delhi High Court alleging that the technical parameters of the Defendant's product could not be achieved without use of the methods prescribed in Sterlite's patented technology. Sterlite, inter alia, prayed to the Court to grant an interim injunction against the Defendant. Even before it could be ascertained whether the Defendant was using the patented method or not, the Court held that an interim injunction was a 'need of the hour'. The Court held that "the life of a patent is limited and further considering the time taken in determination, whether there is infringement of patent, non grant of interim injunction often results in, the defendant, even if ultimately found to have infringed the patent, till the said determination, continuing to reap fruits of infringement." This is a landmark case for the judiciary's proactive approach towards protecting the patentee's rights during the patent's life-span.
While ascertaining the balance of convenience, the Court observed that in case no injunction is granted, then that at the end of the suit the patentee may be successful only in recovering the profits accrued to the Defendant. However, the profits which the patentee would have earned, had there been no infringement, cannot be recovered. It is noteworthy that costs of the innovator's product include the cost of innovation and is always higher than the costs to the infringer. Hence, it is necessary to restrain the Defendant from selling the infringing goods with an interim order of injunction, until the court decides upon matter. To protect the patentee further, the Court has stated that the infringer's non-compliance with interim orders, would entitle the patentee to take punitive action against the infringer.
The next question that comes to mind is whether the Defendant is harmed by such interim orders. For this, the Court observed that if the Defendant succeeds in its defence of denial of infringement or invalidity of the patents, then violation of the interim order will not affect it anyway. The order of the Court in this case clearly mentions that the Defendant, until the next date of hearing, is restrained from infringing the 2 patents of the Plaintiff. This does not restrain the Defendant from manufacturing or selling the goods per se.
It puts the ball in the Defendant's court. If the Defendant can successfully convince the Court that there has been no infringement in the case, it would not be liable to comply with this interim order. This balanced approach of the Hon'ble Court is commendable.
Considering that any invention has to pass through the painful process of passing the tests of patentability, inventive step, and protecting the patent from revocations and oppositions for its entire lifetime, such an order is surely a sigh of relief for innovators around the country.
Compiled by: Adv. Sachi Kapoor | Concept & Edited by: Dr. Mohan Dewan
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