Recently, a bill has been introduced in Lok Sabha to disassemble 5 appellate tribunals namely for Patents, Copyright, Trademark, Plant variety and Cinematography, under "The Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021". It seeks to abolish IPAB, which handles the above cases, and transfer powers to high court in order to reorganize the functioning of tribunals and avoid delay in the allowance of justice.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY APPELLATE BOARD (IPAB)

IPAB was established by Government of India on 15th September 2003 to hear and resolve the appeals against the decisions of the registrar under the Indian Trademarks Act, 1999, and the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. It is headquartered at Chennai.

IPAB was established with the aim to allow an appeal against the decision of the controller of India in matters related to any decisions pertaining to inventor names, directions given to co-owners of the patent, decisions related to Patent of Addition, orders relating to divisional application, orders relating to dating of application, decisions relating to anticipation, and decisions and cases of potential infringement, etc.

Appeals from the decision of the Controller to the IPAB must be made within three months from the date of the decision/ order, or within such further time as the IPAB permits, with the appropriate fees. The extension for filing the appeal can be made through COD petition along with prescribed fees.

DISSOLUTION OF IPAB

The main objective to propose such a bill is to abolish certain tribunals and authorities and to provide a mechanism for filing appeals directly to the commercial court or the High Court. It is safe to assume that the matters will face equal level of procedural scrutiny and the courts will face an equivalent amount of burden. If new bill is passed, all disputes and appeals concerning intellectual property protection including patents, trademarks, in the field of technology, engineering, pharmaceuticals and chemicals may soon be decided by the courts and not through the designated appellate tribunal.

There could be several reasons for abolishing IPAB. Firstly, that the government has been struggling to find qualified persons for appointment to the IPAB, as a result it has gone for years without any appointment. Secondly, there has been complaint of appointing members of poor quality and thirdly, the IPAB is located only in two cities which is simply not sufficient for a country like India where IP litigations take place across the geography.

However, it is still unclear how High courts, which themselves have limited technical members and weigh under backlogs will be able to handle the burden of pending matters of the IPAB.

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