Appointment of Chairman of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board

IPAB is one of the most important IP tribunals in the country and was established by the Central Government by notifying in the Official Gazette on 15.07.2003. IPAB is an administrative body that has appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of the Controller of Patents, Registrar under the Trade Marks Act, 1999, and the Geographical Indications. However, IPAB has no statutory powers for trial infringement proceedings.

After the retirement of the Chairman of IPAB, K.N Basha on 13th May 2016, IPAB was run by only one member i.e. Mr. Sanjeev Kumar Chaswal (Technical Member of Trade Mark) leaving behind other two posts vacant namely Vice-Chairman and Technical Member (Patents). This situation left IPAB almost non-functional for an year, leading to backlog of almost about 50,000 applications, due to which India was put under Priority watch list by US. Trade Representative.

As a result of which writ petitions were filed in Delhi as well as in Chennai, in order to fill up the vacant seats so as to make IPAB functional. This resulted in an expedited appointment of the Chairman, however, other positions are yet to be appointed. Therefore, through the Notice dated 1st January 2018 issued by IPAB in accordance to the order dated 29.12.2017 of Ministry of Commerce and Industry (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion), Shri Justice Manmohan Singh has been appointed as the Chairman of the said Board.

Justice Manmohan Singh is a well renowned persona in the field of IPR, who practiced the over 10 years and served as the Additional Judge of High Court of Delhi from 11th April, 2008- 21.09.2016.

As to who appointed the present Chairman and the constitutionality thereof are still contentious issues as the Madras High Court had upheld that the selection committee for appointing members of IPAB, shall have a predominant role of the Judiciary rather than of the Executive. Further, pointed that while appointing the ‘chairperson’, the recommendation of the Chief justice of India must be given ‘due consideration’. The concerned High Court, elaborately explained and also struck down various parts of Section 85[1] of the Trade Mark Act, 1999 in order to upheld the ‘Doctrine of Separation of Power’[2], thereby making the IPAB, a constitutionally valid Judicial body.

However, it is alleged that this appointment has been made under Tribunal, Appellate and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017. The said Act provides for composition of the selection committee that consists of Chief Justice of India or his nominee, two secretaries to the Government of India and two experts nominated by the Central Government, leading to greater dominance of Executive rather than judiciary in the appointment procedure of the Chairperson. This blatantly violates the judgement of the Madras High Court as mentioned earlier.

Moreover, let’s wait whether the said appointment of Justice Manmohan Singh will be challenged on the ground of constitutionality or not, keeping in mind the rulings held by the Hon’ble High Court of Madras.

Author: Ms. Pratistha Sinha, Intern at Khurana and Khurana Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at anirudh@khuranaandkhurana.com.

References:

[1] Qualifications for appointment as Chairman, Vice-Chairman, or other Members.

[2]Shamnad Basheer vs Union Of India on 10 March, 2015, W.P.No.1256 of 2011; The petition challenged the constitutional validity of the eligibility criteria, appointment of the members of IPAB

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