In its order dated 04th April, 2021, the Indian  government promulgated the Tribunals Reforms  (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service)  Ordinance 2021, effectively abolishing India's IP  Appellate Board (IPAB) and transferring its functions  to the country's Commercial and High Courts.

Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) was  constituted by the Central Government on September  15, 2003, to hears appeals against the decisions of  the Registrar under the Trade Marks Act, 1999 and  the Geographical Indications of Goods Act  (Registration and Protection), 1999. After four years,  in 2007 the IPAB jurisdiction was extended to the  Patents Act, 1970. Later through the Finance Act, in  2017, it was further extended to the Copyright Act,  1957. IPAB was created with an objective to bring  together the best set of expertise in the IP regime  through technical members possessing technical and  scientific knowledge due to which it has delivered  various landmark judgments. However, it also  succumbed to various difficulties due to being non[1]functional on account of lack of technical expertise  for a number of years, which lead to pendency and  delay of matters.


The Patent Act, 1970

The ordinance has led to the abolishment of the  Appellate Board, which possessed the power to hear  appeals against the decisions of the Controller  General of Patents regarding revocation, ratification  of patents, etc. Under the provisions of the Act,  'Appellate Board' is substituted for the 'High Court'.  As a consequence, the High Court is empowered,  inter alia, to revoke the patent if granted to fraud and  to grant a patent to the true and first inventor, to  rectify the Register of Patents as per Section 71 by  making variations or deletions, to allow an  amendment to complete specification, to issue  validity certificate of specification.

Copyright Act, 1957

The Appellate Board under the Copyright Act is  dissolved, and the powers of the Board are transferred  to the Commercial Courts and High Courts. Section  12 defining the powers and procedure of the  Appellate Board has been deleted. The Commercial  Courts now possess the power to make final calls on  whether a work has been published, handle  assignment dispute, decide the term of copyright in  anonymous and pseudonymous work, grant  compulsory and statutory licenses, to grant a license  to produce and publish translations, to grant a license  to reproduce and publish works, to hear disputes  with regard to tariff schemes by Copyright Societies  and to fix resale share right in original copies of the  first author. Furthermore, the High Courts possess  the power to rectify the Register of Copyrights as per  Section 50. They also have the power under Section  70 to hear appeals against the orders of the Registrar  of Copyrights.

The Trade Marks Act, 1999

With the abolishment of the IPAB, the power of  appeals against the decision of the Registrar of Trade  Marks has been transferred to the High Court. The word 'Tribunal' or 'Appellate Board' is replaced  with 'Registrar or the High Court' per context. The  powers conferred to the Registrar of Trademarks and  the High Court are to remove a trademark from the  register and to impose limitations on grounds of  non-use, to require an applicant to furnish security,  to vary registration and rectify the register, to deal  with registration application of certification  trademark, to admit evidence in proceedings, among  others.

The primary reason for the ordinance was the IPAB's  slow pace of justice delivery despite the huge burden  on the public exchequer. The abolishment of IPAB  amounts to the restoration of the status quo, as prior  to the establishment of IPAB when the power to  adjudicate was vested with the High Courts. The  move is considered a step forward to deal with the  pending cases and strengthen the IP protection and  enforcement system. However, it is yet to be seen  how the high courts with their existing backlog and  absence of technical members specially in patent  revocation and appeal matters will take the burden  of IPAB which had been shouldering responsibilities  for about 18 years old. The short-term result of such  abolition can be seen on the current cases pending  before IPAB which will now be further delayed for a  year or more.

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