The conduct of the Indian Trademark Office regarding the maneuver of abandonment has resulted in an uproar in the Trademark Fraternity, not only in India but even abroad, as well. The actions taken by the Registrar of Trademark have been seen as a corrective step (to clear the backlog by abandoning the application which were as per their records not prosecuted properly) however the Hon'ble High court of Delhi, stayed this proceeding in light of the fact that the due process of law had not been followed and hence the action has been carried out in haste. Given the volume of iterative allegations over the Indian Trademark Office for being sluggish in its manner of operations, causing the applications to be kept pending for processing and registration which causes deceleration to the functioning and trust established by the people in the system.
There have been numerous instances, when people have written about the deficiencies in the functioning of Indian Trademark Office and taking note of the same, the Government of India has tried to rectify the working of the office in order to bring it par to the offices around the world. The Indian Trademark Office has now become a transparent and efficient office where efficient disposal of applications are taking place and a new era of work culture is being followed. In this article we will discuss the corrective measures taken by the Indian Government in order to make trademark office an efficient and transparent office.
ADOPTION OF MADRID CONVENTION:
India had signed the Madrid Protocol on April 08, 2013 and hence became the 89th member of the Madrid Protocol. The signing of Madrid Protocol by India was a significant step towards the introduction of Madrid System for the registration of Trademarks in India. The introduction of Madrid protocol gave an option to an applicant to go for an international application based upon the basic application or registration and to apply in different member countries in one single application. A new chapter IVA was inserted with the title "Special provisions relating to protection of trademarks through international registration under the Madrid protocol". This new chapter is corresponding to the Article 3, 3bis, 3ter and Article 4 of the Madrid Protocol. The introduction of Madrid Protocol for international filing was necessary to bring Indian Trade Marks practice in common parlance to the international standard. Madrid Protocol will not only help the local applicant to have a cost effective registration outside India but it also provide a strict timeline to complete the process of registration.
RECRUITMENT OF NEW STAFF AT INDIAN TRADEMARK OFFICE:
Trademark practitioners in India has seen the days when a trademark application were kept pending for a number of years waiting for examination. The most popular excuse provided by the official at the Trademark Office for the same was lack of staff and if anybody has seen the situation in the office then it is not incorrect to say that it was right. There were only 35 (Group A & B officers which includes examiners) regular staff working in the Trademark Office in the year 2007 and few examiners were hired on contractual basis. In the same year 109361 trademark applications were filed and 851851 applications were examined hence if we compare the same then we can say that they did a good job but these examined applications were from previous years as they were pending examination. Further the officers mentioned above were not only doing examination but other works as well such as renewal, assignments, hearing for objected applications, opposition etc.
Therefore it was although an excuse but genuine one as per the above figures and the government has tried to rectify the same by recruiting more examiners in Indian Trademark Office. The strength is now nearly six times than it was in 2007 and the examination of the trademark applications is now centralized and conducted at the Mumbai Trademark office which is the head office of Indian Trademark Office. This has being examined within 3 to 4 months of filing. This also have a lot to do because of introduction of Madrid convention in India as it required a time bound disposal of cases within 18 months.
DIGITIZATION OF INDIAN TRADEMARK OFFICE:
The digitization of Indian Trademark Office was introduces in the year 2009 when all the files related to the registration of trademarks were made available online. Further online filing facility was also introduces in order to make Trademark office a paperless office. Online filing also reduce the chances of errors in entries in the database of Indian Trademark Office as earlier entries were made for the application filed on counter by data entry operators which has more chances of errors. Further it also help in saving of time as entries are now directly made by the applicant in the database while filing of application and there is no need for any third party to make entries in the database.
Although it has been more than 6 years when the online filing facility for trademarks was introduces by Indian Trademark Office but then also it has not been used on a large scale and application filed at counter outnumbered the applications filed online till date. One of the most important reasons for the same is low level of digital literacy in India. The digital literacy rate in India is very low as people do not have access to the Internet apart from the metro cities. The current government has recently launched digital India Campaign which is a campaign launched to ensure that Government services are made available to citizens electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity or by making the country digitally empowered in the field of technology2. One of the three key visions of this program is to Digital Empowerment of Citizens and same will be achieved by the below mentioned modes3:
- Universal digital literacy
- Universally accessible digital resources
- Availability of digital resources / services in Indian languages
- Collaborative digital platforms for participative Governance
- Citizens not required to physically submit Govt. documents / certificates
The more digital literacy will improve more it will help in improvement of services at Indian Trademark office. The digital platform for providing services will help in reducing the human intervention which reduces the chances of error and has less scope of corrupt practices. This will certainly help in reducing the workload and improvement in facilities at the Indian Trademark Office.
SPECIAL DRIVES TO CLEAR THE BACKLOGS:
In the recent past, Indian Trademark Office has started to take up the matters pending with them for a long time due to one reason or another, by calling up applicants in special drives to clear the backlog in various departments of Office. The Office has introduced last year special drive to clear the backlog of opposition matters and asked parties to approach them in case they have entered into a settlement with the opposite party or one of the party has shown its willingness to withdraw the case. The office has asked parties to submit the documents and update the records in relation to the opposition cases.
Further the trademark office had also started a special drive to clear the backlog in post registration section by calling people for hearing in the matters of recordal of assignment, renewal etc, if the matter is pending for a long time.
In the month of March 2016 Indian Trademark Office called the parties for a project in collaboration with Delhi State Legal Service Authority (DSLSA) for Mediation in cases pending before Registrar of Trade Marks, at the Trade Marks Registry Delhi. This project was introduced to accelerate the cases where matter is pending for a long time and parties are willing to settle the matter.
It will take further corrective measures to make Indian Trademark Office, a state of the art office and at par with the other trademark offices of developed countries but the emergence of above discussed corrective measures are correct steps in right direction. In the recent years, the efficiency of the Indian Trademark Office has improved a lot and the efficient work culture at the office has enhanced the faith of people in the working of the office. They are more willing now to indulge with the office for registration of their rights than in past and this has created a positive environment for the fraternity working for the protection of right. The recent abandonment of application, although a hasty decision but same will help further in enhancing the reputation of the office as it will keep applicants on their toes and they will follow the deadlines provided under the Indian Trademark Act with more caution in future. The working at the office is a two way process and if the practitioners follow deadlines efficiently then same will also make Trademark Office to do their part of the job with same efficiency.
1 As per annual report of CGPDTM for the year 2006-07
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