Category Archives: Intellectual Property

M/s. Sunwhite Infrastructure Pvt Ltd. V. Kindle Developers Pvt Ltd, CP No. 40 (ND)/17 (decided on 23.08.2017)

Facts

The petition was filed by M/s Sunwhite Infrastructure Pvt Ltd (hereinafter referred to as “the petitioners”) against Kindle Developers Pvt Ltd (hereinafter referred to as “the respondents”) Sec 241[1] and Sec 242[2] of the Companies Act, 2013 alleging acts of mismanagement and oppression prejudicial to the interests of the company as well as the stakeholders. The respondent company, engaged in the business of real estate development was incorporated in March 2011 with a paid up capital of Rs. 1 Lakh of which the petitioner acquired a 40% shareholding from respondent No. 3. The petitioners alleged that upon the representation of the respondents that they had been allotted a plot by Greater Noida Authority for development of a group housing project and were in need of financial assistance, the petitioners extended a loan of Rs. 6 Lakh to the respondents upon the following conditions:

  1. The loan was to be repaid within the period of one year.
  2. The respondent undertakes not to borrow any further money from third parties without the petitioners consent.

However, due to the failure of the respondents to repay the loan within the time specified, the petitioners filed a suit for permanent and prohibitory injunction in Court of Civil Judge, Delhi to restrain the defendants from parting, selling or creating rights of third parties over the allotted land. An order of injunction was passed against the respondents by the said Judge. The present petition was filed subsequently against the acts of oppression and mismanagement by the respondents who failed to appear despite being served and were, thus, proceeded ex parte.

Contentions of the Petitioner

The petitioners in the present petition contend that:

  1. In complete disregard of the loan agreement entered into by the petitioners and the respondents, the respondents not only defaulted on the payment but also took further loans from various third parties.(Para 5)
  2. The defendants were defrauding investors by siphoning off the funds collected from prospective buyers without engaging in any significant construction work. The petitioners also entered into record the audited balance sheet of the defendants for 2015-2016 reflecting advances of Rs. 157 crores collected for booking of flats against which very little construction was completed.(Para 5)
  3. The petitioners further alleged that statutory compliances were not carried out on time, no Annual General Body meeting had been conducted since Sept, 2014 and books and accounts of the defendant company were not available for inspection to the petitioners.(Para 6)
  4. It is also contended by the petitioner that in complete contempt of the order of Civil Judge, Delhi, which restrained them from altering the management of the company, respondent no. 4 & 5 were appointed as Additional Directors by the respondent company. Such appointment is otherwise illegal as well due to it not being ratified by the remaining management. (Para 6)

Issues

  1. Whether there has been oppression and mismanagement by the respondent company?
  2. Whether the appointment of additional directors is in violation of the order of civil judge, Delhi?

Judgement

The NCLT held that there had been no oppression of the petitioners in their capacity as shareholders and that their grievance was misplaced as they were aggrieved in capacity of creditor whose entitlement under a loan agreement was violated  for which the appropriate remedy would lie in a civil forum. It observed that, “The non-payment of a creditor could not be held as oppressive to the shareholder. The order of Civil Court Judge restraining the respondent from alienating the said property was enough to secure the interest of the creditor” (Para 9d).

It was held that allegations of siphoning off of funds by the respondents were largely uncorroborated and unsubstantiated and on the basis of the material placed on record, it was not possible for the Tribunal to conclude whether the advances justified the quantum of work done (Para 9a). On absence of any cogent material, the Bench was unable to accept allegations of siphoning off of funds, duping of prospective buyers or direct an investigation into the affairs of the company.

Secondly, with regard to non-availability of books & accounts of the respondent company, it was observed that there was nothing to show that the petitioners ever made any effort to inspect the same which they, as shareholders of the company, had a right to do. (Para 9b)

The NCLT held that insofar as the appointment of the Additional Directors was concerned, the appropriate form to deal with such appointment was the Court of Civil Judge, Delhi who has passed the impugned order restraining the respondents from doing so. (Para 9c)

Lastly, in response to the allegations that no AGM had been held since Sept, 2014, and that statutory compliances have not been complied with, the Bench held that as shareholders with 40% equity in the respondent company, the petitioners were well within their rights to requisition the management to convene a meeting to discuss any agenda or matter they thought fit. (Para 9e)

Directions

The NCLT gave the following directions:

  1. The Bench directed the respondents to hold AGM for defaulting years as well as the Financial Year ending on 31.03.2017 in exercise of provisions of Sec97[3] of the Companies Act, 2013, holding, the allegation of non-compliance with statutory requirements would, in absence of any defence by respondents, be tantamount to mismanagement. (Para 13)
  2. The respondents were also directed to lay before members, all Financial Statements, Annual Returns, Directors Report etc followed by filing them with the Registrar of Companies as statutorily required as well as paying all taxes required by Government. (Para 14)
  3. Lastly, though observing that courts should not ordinarily interfere with the management, with due regard to the fact and circumstances of the present case, the Bench directed the appointment of an independent Observer/ Administrator to oversee proper convening of the AGM and ensuring that all statutory requirements are complied with. The Bench also remarked that failure to comply with any of the directions would invite penal consequences under the Act. (Para 15 & 16)

 

Author: Ms. Noyonika Mukherjee, Intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. Can be reached at   anirudh@khuranaandkhurana.com.

References:

[1] Sec 241, Companies Act, 2013 provides that any member may apply to the Tribunal who complains that the affairs of the company are  being conducted in a manner prejudicial to public interest, interest of the company or is prejudicial/oppressive to him or any member of the company OR any material change has taken place in the management/ control of the company by reason of which it is likely that affairs of the company will be conducted in a manner prejudicial to interests of the company, any members or any class of member. The Central Government can also apply to the Tribunal for an order under this section.

[2] Sec 244, Companies Act, 2013 provides that an application may be made under Sec 241 by any member- (a) in case of a company having a share capital, not less than 100 members or not less than 1/10th of total members or any members(s) holding not less than 1/10th of issued share capital provided that have paid all calls/sums due on their share;(b) in case of company not having share capital, not less than 1/5th of total members. The Tribunal may, on an application, waive any of the requirements.

[3] Sec 97, Companies Act, 2013 provides that the Tribunal may, on the application of any member of the Company, call or direct calling of an AGM and give such ancillary/consequential directions as it thinks expedient, if any default is made in made in holding the AGM under Sec 96, provided that the directions may include a direction that one member of the company present in person or proxy shall be deemed to constitute a meeting. A general meeting held in pursuance of the above may be deemed to be an annual general meeting.

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Online Disputes and Forum Jurisdiction

The Delhi high court on 3rd January, 2018 in Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. vs S&D Hospitality[1], took a different view with respect to the Internet jurisdiction[2].

In the above case, plaintiff sought permanent injunction against the defendants who was running a restaurant at Hyderabad, under  the impugned trademarks ‘SOCIAL’ and ‘STONE WATER’ and its services were available through Zomato. The court held that the plaintiff would have to produce material prima facie to show that some commercial transaction using the website was entered into by the Defendant through the app- ZOMATO, within the forum state and that the specific targeting of the forum state by the Defendant resulted in an injury or harm to the plaintiff within the forum state.

Defendants contended that this Court has no territorial jurisdiction to entertain the present suit  as the defendant neither has his registered office within the jurisdiction of the said Court nor carries on any business within the jurisdiction of this Court. Mere existence of a website without proof of ‘the effect’ does not clothe this Court with territorial jurisdiction to entertain the present suit. Returning the plaint, the court held that a mere hosting of a website that is  accessible by anyone within the jurisdiction of the court is not sufficient for this purpose[3].

Convinced with the Defendant’s contention, the Court Further relied on Banyan Tree Holding (P) Limited v. A. Murali Reddy and Anr[4] which held that a passive website, with no intention to specifically target audiences outside the State where the host of the website is located, cannot vest the forum court with jurisdiction. The Hon’ble Court also observed that for the purposes of a passing off or an infringement action (where the plaintiff is not located within the jurisdiction of the court), the injury on the plaintiffs business, goodwill or reputation within the forum state as a result of the Defendant’s website being accessed in the forum state would have to be shown.

Earlier, the stance of the court was a bit different  in the case of World Wrestling Entertainment v. M/S Reshma Collection & Ors[5]– The Delhi High court had held that the mere website of the party referring to various goods  is not an offer but an invitation to an offer, just as a menu in a restaurant. The invitation, only if accepted by a customer in Delhi, becomes an offer made by the customer in Delhi for purchasing the goods “advertised” on the website of the appellant/plaintiff. Further, it held that mere accessibility of website in a forum state which ‘solicits’ its business, through which Defendant’s goods and services are sold, is enough to raise cause of action and in determining the personal jurisdiction in Delhi.

Legal Provisions in Regard to Jurisdiction

The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 contains the provisions under section 20 with respect to institution of the suits where defendant resides or cause of action arises . It reads as : Subject to the limitations aforesaid, every suit shall be instituted in a Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction –

  • The defendant, or each of the defendants where there are more than one, at the time of the commencement of the Suit, actually and voluntarily resides, or carries on business, or personally works for gain; or
  • any of the defendants, where there are more than one, at the time of the commencement of the suit, actually and voluntarily resides, or carries on business, or personally works for gain, provided that in such case either the leave of the Court is given, or the defendants who do not reside, or carry on business, or personally work for gain, as aforesaid, acquiesce in such institution; or 
  • the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises.”

[Explanation]: A corporation shall be deemed to carry on business at its sole or principal office in India or, in respect of any cause of action arising at any place where it has also a subordinate office, at such place.

Section 62 [6] provides that every suit or other civil proceeding in respect of the infringement of copyright in any work or the infringement of any other right conferred by this Act shall be instituted in the district court having jurisdiction.

 Learned author Mulla in the Code of Civil Procedure, 18th Edn., has observed that under clauses (a) to (c) of section 20, plaintiff has a choice of forum to institute a suit. The intention behind Explanation to section 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure is that once the corporation has a subordinate office in the place where the cause of action arises wholly or in part, it cannot be heard to say that it cannot be sued there because it did not carry on business at that place. The linking of the place with the cause of 12 action in the Explanation where subordinate office of the corporation is situated is reflective of the intention of the Legislature and such a place has to be the place of the filing of the suit and not the principal place of business. Ordinarily the suit has to be filed at the place where there is principal place of business of the corporation.

The Indian Courts have always followed the parent legislation – Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and have  constantly tried to harmonize the technological advancement with the statute. Therefore, in the following caselaws, the courts have explained Section 20 of the CPC with reference to IPR and internet jurisdiction.

Indian Performing Rights Society Ltd. v. Sanjay Dalia & Anr The Supreme Court of India interpreted section 62 of the Copyright Act, 1957 and section 134(2) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 with regard to the place where the plaintiff can institute a suit. Wherein it observed that “The very intendment of the insertion of provision in the Copyright Act and Trade Marks Act is the convenience of the plaintiff. The rule of convenience of the parties has been given a statutory expression in section 20 of the CPC as well. The interpretation of provisions has to be such which prevents the mischief of causing inconvenience to parties.”

Banyan Tree Holding (P) Limited vs A. Murali Krishna Reddy & Anr. on 23 November, 2009– The division bench of the Delhi High Court held that “Under clauses (a) to (c) of section 20 CPC, a plaintiff has a choice of forum and cannot be compelled to go to a place of business or residence of the defendant and can file a suit where the cause of action arises.”

In Icon Health And Fitness, Inc vs Sheriff Usman And Anr. – the Delhi High Court assumed jurisdiction under Clauses (a) and (b), stating that the defendants ‘carried on business’ in Delhi. The entirety of the Court’s reasoning for the above is contained in two sentences – “Though the defendants are not residing in Delhi, however, the defendants are offering their fitness apps and brands through App Store, Google Play Store and e-commerce portals like http://www.amazon.in which can be accessed and operated from all over the country, including from Delhi. Thus, it can be said that the defendants are carrying on business or working for gain at Delhi and this Court has territorial jurisdiction to try and decide the present suit as per section 20 of the CPC, 1908

Conclusion

At the outset, the Court does not subscribe to the view that mere accessibility of the Defendants website in Delhi would enable this Court to exercise jurisdiction. However, a passive website, with no intention to specifically target audiences in the forum State where the host of the website is located, cannot vest the forum court with jurisdiction.[7] The Court in Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. vs S & D Hospitality, took a very balanced stand and logically differentiated the concept of ‘mere presence of website’ and ‘targeting the forum state’. Thus, it is appreciated that the Court is not rigid and is flexible in providing a reasonable and tenable judgments by considering different facts and circumstances. Hence, it can be seen that the Indian Judiciary is swiftly moving towards a new jurisprudence on internet jurisdiction, in accordance to section 20 of CPC.

Author: Mr. Himanshu, Intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. Can be reached at   anirudh@khuranaandkhurana.com.

References:

[1] Decided on: 3rd January, 2018 ; CS(COMM) 111/2017

[2] The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, S-20 (c) – Other suits to be instituted where defendants reside or cause of action arises.

[3] Cybersell, Inc. v. Cybersell, Inc., 130 F.3d 414

[4] CS (OS) No. 894/2008

[5] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/71641182/

[6] The Copyright Act, 1957, Section-62-Jurisdiction of court over matters arising under this chapter.

[7] Banyan Tree Holding (P) Ltd

Patent (Amendment) Rules 2017

Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has amended Patent Rules 2003 with effect from 1st December 2017 called as the Patent (Amendment) Rules, 2017. The definition of “startup” under rule 2(fb) has been substituted with a new definition. A more liberal definition of startup has been incorporated that can allow domestic as well as foreign entities to claim benefits such as fast-track mechanism and lower fee for filing patents.

According to the Patent (Amendment) Rules, 2017:

“Startup” means

(a) an entity in India recognized as a startup by the competent authority under Startup India Initiative.
(b) In case of a foreign entity, an entity fulfilling the criteria for turnover and period of incorporation/ registration as per Startup India Initiative and submitting declaration to that effect.

Explanation: In calculating the turnover, reference rates of foreign currency of Reserve Bank of India shall prevail.[1]

According to the Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2016 startups were defined as entities which are working towards innovation, development, deployment or commercialization of new products, processes or services driven by technology or intellectual property where more than five years have not been lapsed from the date of incorporation/registration with a maximum turnover of INR 25 crore per year.[2] However, according to the Patent (Amendment) Rules, 2017, a startup can be any Indian entity recognized as a startup by the competent authority under the Startup India Initiative or a foreign entity that fulfils criteria for turnover and period of incorporation/registration as per Startup India Initiative.

Under Startup India Initiative an entity shall be considered as a Startup, if it fulfils following criteria:

1. incorporated as a private limited company or registered as a partnership firm or a limited liability partnership in India;
2. incorporated or registered in India not prior to seven years, however for Biotechnology Startups not prior to ten years;
3. turnover for any of the financial years since incorporation/ registration has not exceeded INR 25 crores;
4. has not been formed by splitting up or reconstruction of a business that was already in existence; and
5. working towards innovation, development or improvement of products or processes or services, or if it is a scalable business model with a high potential of employment generation or wealth creation.[3]

In view of the foregoing, it can be concluded that the period of incorporation/registration that was 5 years under 2016 rules has been extended to 7 years (10 years in case of biotechnology startups) by the 2017 rules. Also, foreign companies can now claim benefits if they fulfill above mentioned criteria for turnover and period of registration as per Startup India Initiative. Further, to claim benefits for filing patents, Indian entity should be recognized as a startup by a competent authority under Startup India Initiative, whereas foreign entity may provide equivalent documents as an evidence for fulfilling criteria for turnover and period of incorporation/registration as per Startup India Initiative along with a declaration to that effect.

[1] http://www.egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2017/180577.pdf

[2] http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/IPORule/1_42_1_Patent__Amendment_Rules

[3] Notification Number G.S.R. 501 (E), https://startupindia.gov.in/notification.php#

A Reminder for Online Retailers

Here’s one case that involves an online retailing businesses that is having a link with Trade mark Law – Jadebay Ltd and others v Clarke-Coles Ltd (t/a Feel Good UK) [2017] EWHC 1400 (IPEC).

However, overlooking the customary practice of online retailing methods, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court followed the theoretical root of the Trade mark laws and over-turned such practices by upholding that‘re-use of a third party’s Amazon listing without consent to sell the same goods may, on appropriate facts, amount to trade mark infringement or passing off.

The factual matrix of this case lies as below:

In this matter there were two claimant, the first one was the statutory and common law owner of the Trade mark ‘Design Elements’ for the purpose of  “flagpoles plastic storage box garden furniture”, while the second Claimant was the sole licensee since 2011 to sell the products of the first claimant.  These products were also sold through online shopping portal namely – www.amazon.co.uk, via three listings created by the second claimant.

Usually, the common practice while listing products for sale on Amazon or any such kind of online portals are that each new listing is given a Unique Amazon Identification Number (ASIN). It is pertinent to note that an Amazon listing created by one party can be used by multiple sellers selling common product. Amazon then tends to promote the cheapest of the offerings by selecting them as the default seller, allowing consumers to review each listing in more detail.

Thus, in this case, the issue arose when the defendant listed its product under the listing created by the claimants, with a low price due to which they appeared as the default seller, attracting majority of sales from the said listing.

Interesting fact about this case is, that the claimants sued the defendants for trade mark infringement and passing off and did not even involve Amazon, who encourages sellers to use pre-existing generic ASINs where possible.

Arguments

The claimant focussed on the basic concept of rights of trademark. Firstly, the owner of the trademark has the right to prevent the third party from commercially using any sign (without the permission of the TM owner) that is ‘identical to the trade mark in respect of goods or services which are identical to those for which the mark is registered (double identity) (section 10 (1), Trade Marks Act 1994) (TMA) (section 10(1))’ or ‘ by such use of trademark that causes a likelihood of confusion or association on the part of the public (section 10(2)(b), TMA) (section 10(2)(b)).”

Secondly, the law of passing off a trade mark, which is considered as an element of Tort, the essential feature that is considered to attract this tort is the goodwill attached to the trade mark, such misrepresentation leads to likelihood of confusion among consumers due to which the claimant suffer damage as mention in the case of Reckitt & Coleman Products Ltd v Borden Inc [1990] RPC 341.

However, the defendant relied on the generality of the Amazon listing number. They claimed that since the listing was generic and did not refer to a specific brand, it could list its product under the same listing and that the brands of the competing products were significantly different as the defendant’s brand was “Feel Good UK”.

However, the claimant argued that due to the use of the same listing number namely “20ft aluminium flagpole “by Design Elements”, any consumer can link the defendant’s product as that of the claimant’s product.The defendants should have sold their products through another Unique Identity ASIN number.

The question was not whether the Defendant attached the sign or trade mark to the product or packaging itself, but whether the use of the listing in this way infringed (and/or passed off) the Claimants’ rights.

Judgement

The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court  accepted the claimant’s argument and  further observed that by having the same listing number and linking one’s goods to a competitor’s branded product listing would undoubtedly cause a misrepresentation and confusion among the consumers leading to Trademark infringement and passing off.

Conclusion

The present case has shown the online businesses a reality that the presence of Trade mark law is every where. It is another reminder that these businesses should consider their online marketing very carefully. Attaching products to an existing Amazon listing when the products are clearly not the same could potentially be an infringing act.  Moreover, as per the Objective of Trade Mark law, that is to avoid confusion in the market place, the decision of the court was not strange and perhaps was very apt.

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

References:

[1] https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=55745fd6-0397-4222-9d31-a3b3a8447e19

[2] https://www.rpc.co.uk/perspectives/ip/flagging-the-risk-of-a-new-type-of-trade-mark-infringement

Mobilox Innovations Private limited vs. Kirusa Software Private Limited

The much debated question with respect to the interpretation of what amounts to “existence of a dispute” has been finally answered by the Supreme Court in the (Mobilox vs. Kirusa) judgment. The interpretation of “existence of dispute” was seen in the context of initiation of CIRP of corporate debtors under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

The Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) can be initiated by the operational creditor in cases of payment default, through an application filed in the NCLT. Prior to such application, a demand notice (demanding the payment of the amount) needs to served upon the corporate debtor under Section 8 (1) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

FACTS

The appellant (Mobilox) was engaged in a Star TV program “NachBaliye” conducting telephonic voting mechanism. The appellant engaged the respondent company (Kirusa) for providing various services relating to the TV program, and the parties also executed a non-disclosure agreement. The NDA stipulated certain conditions such as confidentiality obligations towards Mobilox. During the time period Kirusa raised necessary monthly invoices for the rendered services. However, Mobilox informed Kirusa about the payments that were subsequently withheld due to breach of the NDA obligations.

Kirusa senta demand notice to Mobiloxunder Section 8 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, due to non- payment. Mobilox’s response to the demand notice stated that there was a bona fide and serious dispute between the parties, inclusive of the breach of obligations mentioned under the NDA.

NCLT

Kirusa subsequently filed an application before the NCLT, Mumbai under section 9 for the initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution process (CIRP) of Mobilox. NCLT rejected the application on the grounds that Mobilox had issued a notice of dispute to the operational creditor.

NCLAT

An appeal against the order of NCLT was subsequently filed by Kirusa stating that mere dispute to the demand notice by the operational creditor does not amount to a valid ground for rejection of application under Section 9 of the ‘I & B Code’. The question before the Appellate Tribunal was with respect to the clarification of meaning of “dispute” and “existence of dispute” for the purposes of application under Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

Section 8 provides for the requirements which should be complied with prior to filing an application under Section 9 of ‘I & B Code’.

Under Section 8 (2) of the I & B Code, once the demand notice is served upon the corporate debtor by the operational creditor, the corporate debtor needs to inform the creditor about the payment of the debt or dispute if any, within 10 days of receiving the notice.

Section 9 enshrines the right to file an application for the initiation of corporate insolvency resolution process after the expiry of 10 days from the date of delivery of demand notice.

NCLAT allowed Kirusa’s appeal on the groundthat the reply to the Demand Notice by the Mobilox cannot be seen within the purview of Section 8(2) and Section 5(6) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. It stated that the defense raised by Mobilox was vague and motivated as the debt demanded was not in connection with the non-disclosure agreement. Further NCLAT stressed upon the interpretation of “dispute” stating the a dispute would not be limited to only arbitration proceedings or suits but shall include any proceedings initiated before any tribunal, consumer court, labour court etc.

SUPREME COURT

Mobilox went in appeal before the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the order passed by NCLAT.

OBSERVATIONS

1. The Hon’ble Supreme Court allowed the appeal by Mobilox, while interpreting the expression “existence of a dispute” under Section 8(2) (a) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. The Hon’bleSupreme Court was of the opinion that the breach of NDA was sufficient to construe the existence of a dispute to invalidate the CIRP application filed by the operational creditor.

2. Interpretation of Section 8 (2) (a): “The word “and” occurring in Section 8 (2) (a) must be read as “or”. According to the earlier interpretation,the Code provides that a dispute between operational creditor and corporate debtor would only be valid if a suit or an arbitration proceeding with respect to the dispute has been filed prior to the receipt of demand notice. The Supreme Court was of the opinion that such an understanding shall lead to “great hardship” as the corporate debtor would then be able to stave off the bankruptcy process provided a dispute is already pending in a suit or arbitration proceedings”. An important point was highlighted by the Hon’bleSupreme Court stating that, if the “and” mentioned under Section 8(2)(a) is not read as “or”, such persons shall be excluded from the ambit of Section 8 (2) and application of CIRP shall be easily obtained which was not the intent of the legislature.

3. Pre-existing Dispute: The Hon’bleSupreme Court held that the existence of the dispute and/or suit or arbitration proceeding necessarily be “pre-existing”, that is to say, it should exist prior to receipt of the Demand Notice.

4. Plausible Contention Test: The Hon’ble Supreme Court while deciding the matter scrutinized the background of IB Code. It observed that the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Bill 2015 defined “dispute” as “a bona fide suit or arbitration proceedings”. However, when the Bill was passed the term “dispute” under Section 5 (6) was dropped from the definition. The Supreme Court stressed upon the interpretation that the previous jurisprudence with respect to the definition “dispute” does not apply to the current IB code. Instead the Hon’bleSupreme Court provided a new test “plausible contention” to determine the “existence of dispute”.

5. Questions to be seen by the Adjudicating Authority while examining any application under Section 9 of the I &B Code
6. Whether there is an “operational debt” of more than One Lakh?
7. Whether the documentary evidence provided with the application shows the debt is due and payable and has not yet been paid?
8.Whether there is an existence of a dispute between the concerned parties or any record of pendency of suit or arbitration proceeding filed before the receipt of Demand Notice.?

If any one of the conditions is not satisfied, NCLT must reject the application.

CONCLUSION

There appears to be no doubt that the interpretation with respect to “dispute” and “existence of a dispute” has been quite in debate since the inception of IB Code. Conflicting interpretations have been provided by different benches of NCLT. However, a conclusive ruling by the Supreme Court has finally provided a settled position.

It would be interesting to note as to how various NCLT’s would interpret and apply this landmark ruling relating to “plausible contention” test. Moreover, the Supreme Court has been vigilant to highlight the strict adherence to the time lines provided under the Code. The Supreme Court has clarified the object of the code keeping in mind the legislative intent. The court through this judgment has provided a balance between the rights of the creditors and also the remedies to the debtor companies.

Author: Tarun Gaur, 5th year student at ILNU, Nirma University, intern at Khurana and Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at info@khuranaandkhurana.com.

References:

[1] Interpreting The Nature Of The Notice Under Section 8 Of The Insolvency And Bankruptcy Code, 2016

[2] http://www.livelaw.in/supreme-court-finally-interprets-existence-dispute-ibc-mobilox-v-kirusa

[3] http://www.livelaw.in/key-takeaways-nclat-judgment-kirusa-vs-mobilox

[4] http://ibbi.gov.in/webadmin/pdf/order/2017

Khurana & Khurana Opens DELHI (Jangpura) Office

Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys (K&K) along with its IP Asset Management Practice, IIPRD, upon successful completion its 10 years of practice,are happy to announce that they are opening up their 7’th branch Office in Jangpura, Delhi  w.e.f  2nd January 2018, in wake of its growing Intellectual Property (IP) and Commercial Litigation Practice, and with an intent of expanding its services verticals across Corporate and Tax Practices in the coming couple of years. The Delhi Office would also cater to IP/Patent professionals based in Delhi/Gurgaon and wanting to work out of the Delhi Office, with Greater Noida continuing to remain the main practice location for the firm.

Khurana & Khurana (K&K) is a leading Legal 500, MIP, IAM, Asia-IP, Acquisition-INTL, Corp-INTL, and Chambers & Partners recommended/ranked full service IP Law Firm in India with exclusive affiliate offices in Bangladesh, Vietnam, USA, Myanmar, and Nepal, and represents Indian and International clients ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 10 companies through its team of over 110 professionals spread across 7 offices in India and focusing on all aspects of IP, Commercial Law, and Media/Entertainment Matters. With 10 years of firm completion, K&K is looking forward to its next level of growth and the next 10 years would help K&K further refine its underlying positioning in the market.

IIPRD, on the other hand, is an established IP Asset Management Practice with a diversified business practice focusing on Patent support Matters ranging from executing mandates from Patent/IP Analytics to Litigation/Prosecution Assistance to Licensing Support for Global Corporates, Licensing Firms, and Law Firms, along with providing services in the domain of Commercialization, Valuation, Licensing, and Technology Transfer Matters.

K&K and IIPRD have completed 10 years of exemplary services. Excellence is our IP services, has given us an up thrust for expansion to Trademark and Copyright domains as well. With the vision of providing dynamic services and expanding our roots geographically, we are proudly opening our Delhi Branch.

Delhi Branch Office Address:

K-16, Jangpura Extension,

New Delhi – 110014, India

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 (here) 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

Louboutin’s ‘Red Sole’ Declared as a Well-Known Trademark by Delhi HC

The news of famous French fashion designer Christian Louboutin’s ‘red sole’ shoes with their sky heel stiletto and iconic red sole often regarded as the fashion statement has recently been in the limelight for being declared as a well-known trademark by Justice Mukta Gupta, Delhi High Court, but very few know the story behind the iconic red sole until now. After dissecting Christian Louboutin’s Rizzoli book, it was discovered that while starting off his career as a landscape gardener, it was actually the nail polish that gave Louboutin his inspiration. The renowned reputation of the ‘RED SOLE’ trademark has not been hidden from anyone and is spilled over into India from various countries around the world and consumers are well aware of this goodwill and reputation.

The luxury shoe brand had recently moved the High Court seeking a permanent injunction to restrain the traders, i.e. ‘Kamal Family Footwear’ and ‘Adra Steps’ in Delhi’s Karol Bagh from manufacturing and selling or in any manner, the shoes using his trademarked sole or the design which is deceptively similar or identical to his distinctive design as shown below.

shoe

The Court observed that the Christian Louboutin’s red sole has been a well-known luxury brand with presence in over 60 countries including India and has been using its ‘red sole’ trademark extensively and continuously since 1992.

In the suit which proceeded ex parte, Justice Mukta Gupta observed as follows: “The plaintiff’s trademark is internationally recognizable and has extensive usage in India. The ‘RED SOLE’ trademark also enjoys trans-border reputation in India by virtue of a variety of factors including tourist travel, in-flight magazines, Internet and broadcasting of various films and television programmes…….”

The Court referred to Hindustan Unilever Limited Vs. Reckitt Benckiser India Limited and finally directed two footwear traders to pay compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to the luxury brand owner for infringing the trademark for over a year and a half and decreed the suit by permanently injuncting the defendants from manufacturing, selling, marketing and advertising foot-wears with the trademark ‘RedSole.’

Author: Rashi Gahlaut,  Trademark Associate at Khurana & Khurana Advocates and IP Attorneys can be reached at  rashi@khuranaandkhurana.com.

Source: 

[1] hfttp://lobis.nic.in/ddir/dhc/MUG/judgement/12-12-2017/MUG12122017SC7142016.pd

Amendments in Patent Application Process in Singapore

The process of applying for patents in Singapore will become much easier and more efficient after Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), in its continued efforts to ease patent application process, has introduced few changes in Patent forms 1 and 12B. According to a circular released on November 21, 2017 on IPOS website [1], these changes will be effective from 10 December 2017 [1] and will be available to Patent Applicants from that date. IPOS claims that after these changes the patent application process will be enhanced for general Applicants.

Amendments to ‘Patents form 1’ [2]

a. Patents forms 1 & 8 will be merged

This change will allow Applicants to enter details of inventors for which the patent has been applied in part 7 of the newly merged form i.e. merged ‘form 1’ & 8. There will be no need to file a separate form 8. It is a welcome move for the Applicants as they will not have to fill multiple forms. In addition to this, the Applicants will now be able to derive rights from the Inventor. Applicants can do this by filling in part 8 of the newly merged form. However, these amendments will not change the process of correcting the details of the inventors i.e. Patents Form 13 will not be applicable for such amendment or correction. Applicants will also be able to submit the details of the inventor separately by filling Patent Form 8 which will still be available for submissions.

b. A separate attachment for sequence listing

A new document will also be available for “sequence listing” for attachment at the time of filing of patent applications. A “sequence listing” is a list of biological sequences in the format prescribed by WIPO Standard ST.25 (Presentation of nucleotide and amino acid sequence listings) using controlled vocabulary (i.e. defined terms for certain features). This document will be available to patent applicants in case they do not want to include sequence listing as a part of description or claims. Also, the applicants will be able to paginate this document and will be able to indicate the page count of sequence listing document in a separate field.

In addition to this, if Applicants want to submit sequence listing as a separate reference document, not forming part of the description or claims, such document can be submitted using the mentioned “sequence listing” document type with a cover letter attached to indicate that it will serve as a reference document only.

c. A new feature of auto-population during divisional filings

Yet another efficient and productive move by the IPOS is the introduction of auto-population feature when a divisional application is being filed. This means that when an Applicant files a divisional application, relevant information from the parent application will be auto-populated for the convenience of the Applicants. Having said that, the Applicants will still be able to amend the auto-populated fields if they choose to do the same.

 Amendments to Patents ‘Form 12B’ [3]

Similar to the changes in Patents form 1, for the ease of Applicants, Patents Form 13 will also be merged with Patents Form 12B. Applicants don’t need to fill Form 13 in case they wish to make amendments to the specification when requesting for an examination review report using Patents Form 12B, and can do so by selecting the option “Written submissions and proposed amendments are filed” in Patents form B. With this selection, the Applicant will be required to submit both a clean and a marked up copy of the amendment of the specification.

Conclusion

Such amendments in the Patent Application process as mentioned above will be available from December 10, 2017. Further, these changes will ease the application process and will allow Applicants some flexibility in sequence listing, and amending details of inventors as well as amending the specification.

Author: Shilpi Saxena, Jr. Patent Associate at Khurana & Khurana Advocates and IP Attorneys can be reached at shilpi@iiprd.com.

 References:

[1] https://www.ipos.gov.sg/docs/default-source/resources-library/patents/circulars/(2017)-circular-no-8—enhancements-to-patent-application-process.pdf

[2] https://www.ipos.gov.sg/docs/default-source/resources-library/patents/patent-forms-and-fees/form-pf1—otc.pdf

[3] https://www.ipos.gov.sg/docs/default-source/resources-library/patents/patent-forms-and-fees/form-pf12b—otc477c1877c2d0635fa1cdff0000abd271.pdf

Trade Mark Infringement-Toyoto Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha. vs. M/S Prius Auto Industries Ltd. and Ors.

Time for Considering Territoriality Principle over Universality Principle 

Courts are gradually shifting their focus to territorial nature of Trade Marks. The same was also quite evident in the Exide case, that has been discussed in the previous blog (here). However, no conclusion was drawn in the case due to ‘out of court settlement’. But, the Supreme Court of India in the instant Toyota case has left a landmark precedent of recent times and re-explained the character of Trademark law.

The case goes back to 2009[1], where Toyota, which is a car manufacturer, claimed that Prius Auto Industries that trades with auto parts and accessories, bore the Plaintiff’s registered ‘Toyota’, ‘Toyota Innova’, ‘Toyota Device’ and ‘Prius’ Trade Marks. The plaintiff approached the Trade Mark Registry for cancellation of registered mark of the defendants, and also filed the suit on the ground that the defendant was using their ‘well known mark’ without their consent, leading to an unfair advantage of their reputation and goodwill of the plaintiff. However, following the decade old practice, ‘global reputation and prior user was upheld’ by the Trial court and gave the judgment stating the Defendant liable for passing off of the Trade marks of the Plaintiff, thereby restraining them from using the said trade marks and imposing punitive damages of rupees ten lacks.

However, the Division Bench of the High Court of Delhi gave a very balanced view and held that the decision of Trial Court was acceptable as far as injunctions against the mark Toyota, Toyota Innova’ and ‘Toyota Device’ is concerned. Injunction against the use of Prius by the Defendant was not justified, as the Plaintiff has to give evidence for showing that there existed a cause of likelihood/actual confusion in the Indian market. Thus, this part of the judgement of the Trial Court was set aside. Therefore, the current case is an appeal filed by the Plaintiff before the Hon’ble Supreme Court which dealt with the question that ‘whether the defendant is liable of passing off due to the use of ‘PRIUS.’

The factual matrix lie in issue that revolves around the mark ‘Prius’. This was the  Mark under which the Plaintiff’s first commercial hybrid car was launched in Japan as well as in other countries since 1997. However, the Plaintiff did not get the Trade Mark “Prius” registered in India and its Prius car was introduced in India only in the year 2009, much later than the year when the Defendant got there Trade Mark ‘PRIUS’ registered in India in 2002.

The importance of the case pertains to the tussle between the two theories of Trade Mark Law. However, the true meaning of Trans-border reputation can very well be observed through this case.

Universality Principle on behalf of Appellant

The Appellantsmain argument was that their Trade Marks had acquired immense reputation and goodwill due to intense advertisement of the product worldwide through print media and internet that were even available in India. Reliance was even made on NR Dongre vs Whirlpool Corporation[2], where it was held that “wide advertisement of trade mark without existence if the goods in local market can well be considered as use of the Trade Mark in the local market”. Also the real test to determine the prior user is to establish that ‘who is the first in the market.’

Thus, the mark PRIUS was a well-known mark under section 2 (1) (zg) r/w Section 11(6) & 11(9) of the Act  as the mark PRIUS had acquired a great deal of goodwill in several other jurisdictions in the world much prior to Prius Auto’s use and registration in India.

Territoriality Doctrine on behalf of Respondent

The Hon’ble Court was convinced with the averments made by the Respondents that most of the courts globally has accepted ‘territorial doctrine over universality principle’, so as to establish the goodwill and reputation in a particular jurisdiction. Therefore, in order to follow the Territoriality Doctrine, one has to show adequate evidence that he has acquired the a substantial goodwill in India for its mark, relying on Starbucks v. British Sky Broadcasting, where the Court observed that:-

“No trader can complain of passing off as against him in any territory… in which he has no customers, nobody who is in trade relation with him.”

Therefore, prior use of the trade mark in one jurisdiction would not ipso facto entitle its owner or user to claim exclusive rights to the said trade mark in other jurisdiction as observed by Division Bench of Delhi Court.

Judgment

Thus, the Supreme Court held that “likelihood of confusion” would be a better test of proving a passing off action, which can only be established from evidentiary documents, which the Appellants failed to provide. In furtherance of this, the Supreme Court also insisted on the Trinity Test as laid down by Reckitt & Colman Products Ltd. v Borden Inc[3] :

  • The goods or services have acquired goodwill or reputation in the marketplace that distinguishes such goods or services from competitors;
  • The defendant misrepresents his goods or services, either intentionally or unintentionally, so that the public may have the impression that the offered goods or services are those of the claimant; and
  • The claimant may suffer damages because of the misrepresentation.

These seven years of clash between the Toyota and Prius automobile company came to an end and the Supreme Court concluded that trademark rights are territorial and not global, thus one has to prove that one has acquired its reputation and goodwill in a territory, only through actual evidence, thereby rejected the trade mark case brought by Toyoto jidosha kabushiki kaisha.

Analysis

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has reiterated the much-needed revision of foundational basis of Trade Mark law, which has also very well described and explained the two most important Doctrine of the Trade Mark law that helps in determining the right owners – Universality Principle and Territoriality Doctrine. Also, Division Bench of High Court has played a very significant role in highlighting the groundbreaking principle and it was very consistent with its view towards the territorial aspect of the Trade Mark law. (which can be seen Exide case). Moreover, the Court Aptly relied on Trans Tyres India Pvt. Ltd vs. Double Coin Holdings Ltd & Anr., which observed that Universality Doctrine (which posits that a mark signifies the same source all over the world) has not been accepted by the courts. Modern day trade; globalization have brought in multi-channel modes of sale in the market and therefore it is the territoriality Doctrine (trade mark being recognized as having a separate existence in each sovereign country) would hold the field.

Thus, it is time to also look into the territorial character of the Trade Mark above the rights of prior user and Trans-border reputation.

Sources:

[1]  http://supremecourt.gov.in/supremecourt/2017/9646/9646_2017_Judgement_14-Dec-2017.pdf

[2] 1996 (2) ARBLR 488 SC

[3] [1990] 1 WLR 491

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