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The Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks at the Indian Intellectual Property Office Mr. P.H. Kurian has made a sudden and surprising request to exit from his role, a shock to the entire IP fraternity keeping in mind the initiatives and drives he undertook during the leadership.
Mr. P.H. Kurian was appointed as the first IAS officer to head the Indian Intellectual Property office in February 2009. He revolutionized the operations of the Indian Intellectual Property Office with his fresh thinking, innovativeness, and enthusiasm. He is instrumental in bringing the much-needed transparency in the practices at the Office.
Some of his contributions in bringing about the reform at the Indian Patent and Trademark Office deserve a mention here:
|Lack of “Transparency”||Digitization of the Patent Records;
Examiner-Application communications go online; All major records and communication available online including forms filed allowing the much craved for transparency.
|Slow Filing either physically or through courier||Introduction of the e-filing facility for patent applications. All prosecution history online.
He also made efforts by putting in a request to allow for mandatory e-filing and now mandatory e-filing is part of the New Patent Rules 2011
|Unsolicited visits and meetings of the Applicants and the Patent Agents with the examiners/controllers and other Corrupt Practices||Kurian made the system stricter and restricted such visits. He has made provisions for a special time and a special space in the office for such discussions.|
|Understaffing and Lack of Expertise||He initiated the recruitment drive and has been appointing more Patent Examiners not only in number but he selected examiners from the specialized area of focus and has put into different subject area groups|
|Slow disposal of patent oppositions||He issued a circular in 2009 asking that all pending opposition decisions to be disposed of expeditiously and also stated that pre-grant decisions should be issued within one month and post-grant decisions within 3 months of the final hearing|
|Loss of 44404 Trademark files||Presented an undertaking in the Delhi High Court to reconstruct the missing files with the help of registered owners of the trademark. And issued Public Notice.|
|Approachability||He allows mails to be cc’ed or marked to him in case certain cases were not responded back in time or needed immediate attention or were not attended to properly by the regional IP Offices|
|Trademark Examination practices||Each TM Application earlier used to get examined where it was filed. Now each application goes randomly to different TM Offices across Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Ahemdabad ensuring unbiased examination procedures.|
|Shuffling of TM Examiners||TM Examiners were regularly shuffled across offices to ensure the minimization of corrupt practices.|
|Online TM Examination Report||The examination reports for Trade Mark Applications are now available online and publicly visible to ensure complete transparency.|
How would his Exit impact the Patent and Trademark Office:
Firstly, on our brief talk earlier today with one of the senior officials of the Patent Office, we understand that Mr. Kurian has right now only requested for the exit from the Government. Whether the Government allows him to exit from the present role is yet to be known and therefore the exit is far from confirmed at the moment.
His exit might allow the same rudimentary practices to creep back in Patent Offices and favor a specific section of IP fraternity. However, we believe it all depends on how strongly have the values been instilled in the present examiners by the practices that Mr. Kurian initiated and how well they are abided by during the course of development of IP Culture in India.
What could have prompted his departure?
What surprises us the most is why Kurian would want to resign when he is doing exceptionally well in his role and has been appreciated a lot for the kind of reforms he has brought at the Patent and Trademark Office. In case a positive outlook is given to the picture, it might well be part of a routine exercise of shifting IAS offices across different roles based on specific requirements. However, the negative outlook gives the impression that the reason for his exit might be the pressure of work that he might be suffering from. He had recently issued a public notice towards the process of the reconstruction of the lost Trademark Files and in context of the same, he was reported to have said that “We are doing so many exercises together so that this will not be repeated. I want to do it meticulously,”
Affect on Domestic and International Patent Holders:
Even though the existing systems are improving to bring more clarity in the way IP applications are processed, a lot still needs to be done in the manner in which Patent holders feel comfortable interacting with IP Officials and to avoid them feel like they are communicating with a conventional Govt. Office. The examination process needs to be speeded up, be made more deadline-oriented, and so much deliberation is still needed on current and prevalent practices such as submission of Form 3, Form 27 among other formalities. The effect therefore might not be immediate but would completely be dependent on the next Controller.
Finding a replacement might take time but an existing Controller of Patents might, for the meantime, be asked to come into his shoes. The choice of the next controller would have to be made very diligently based on his/her past work profile and established credibility.
We don’t foresee any problems in the short term as the existing practices, especially Patent practices, are fairly well established but going forward, strong initiatives would be continuously needed and be well implemented to ensure that IPs issued in India hold merit in terms of enforceability.
We are optimistic about the development of the Indian IP on the right path and hope his exit would not shatter our hopes to see the robust Indian Patent Office on the lines of the USPTO and EPO.
About the Author: Ms. Meenakshi Khurana, Patent Attorney in the Institute of Intellectual Property Research & Development (IIPRD) and can be reached: Meenakshi@iiprd.com.