The Government of India has abolished, with immediate effect, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB). The IPAB used to hear appeals from administrative actions under the Patents Act, 1970, Copyright Act, 1957, Trademarks Act, 1999, Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act), Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act). As a consequence, any appeal, application or proceeding currently pending before the IPAB under the Patents Act, Trademarks Act, GI Act and PPVFR Act stands transferred to the High Courts (or Commercial Courts, as the case may be).
On 13 February 2021, the Central Government had introduced the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2021 (“Bill”) in the Lok Sabha to streamline the functioning of tribunals by eliminating a number of them and providing a mechanism for filing appeals directly to the High Court. Among these, the IPAB, the Appellate Tribunal under various intellectual property laws was also proposed to be abolished.
The IP stakeholder community, surprisingly, was not consulted in this matter. As an immediate reaction, all the major industry associations as well as IP attorney associations came together and submitted representations against the proposed move. Urgent meetings with the concerned Ministries were also requested.
The Bill could not be taken up during the Parliament session in March. However, the Central Government on 4 April 2021, under the power conferred by Article 123 of the Constitution promulgated an ordinance, namely, the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 (“Ordinance”) which is substantially the same as the Bill that lapsed.
Article 123 of the Constitution allows the Central Government (represented by the President) to promulgate ordinances whenever the Parliament is not in session and the President is satisfied that immediate action be taken. The ordinance stays in force until six weeks have elapsed from the reconvening of the Parliament in the next session or if both Houses of Parliament pass resolutions disapproving of the ordinance. This allows the Central Government sufficient time to reintroduce the lapsed Bill in order for it to be debated and enacted into law.
The actual implications of this Ordinance will unravel in the coming weeks and months and we will keep you updated.