What led to the abolition of Intellectual Property Appellate Board?

Synopsis: A lack of effective government support provided to the Intellectual Property Appellate Board has led to its demise.

  • The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) established in 2003. It aimed to specifically deal with matters of intellectual property including copyright, trademarks, patents, and geographical indications.
  • Further, since 2007 Novartis’ patent case, the IPAB has been authorized to hear and decide upon the appeals made by the Patent Controller under the Patents Act. Therefore, all pending appeals of Indian High Courts under the Patents Act transferred to IPAB.
  • However, the IPAB stands abolished after the passage of Tribunal reforms (Rationalisation and condition service) ordinance 2021.
  • India has been a good example for the world with regard to legislating TRIPS compliant Patent laws. For example, anti-evergreening provisions, compulsory licensing regime.
  • However, by the abolition of IPAB, India has the missed opportunity to develop an effective indigenous appellate mechanism on patent law.

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What are the reasons for the failure of IPAB?
  1. First, IPAB was not able to perform its adjudicatory functions due to administrative reasons. Many issues were pending in the court for resolution. For example,
    • Petition on the constitutionality of the IPAB.
    • Petitions to fill up the vacancies before the High Court in Delhi and Chennai.
    • Also, Petitions in the Supreme Court for extension of the term of the chairperson.
  2. Second, the issue of understaffing. For example, it was functioning without a chairperson for almost two years. Also, there were subsequent delays in the appointment of the technical member for patents.
  3. Third, lack of judicial and institutional independence of the IPAB. Previous chairpersons raised this issue publicly.
  4. Fourth, lack of Power. For example, the highest authority on protecting technology and innovation working had to function during power cuts without any viable backup.
  5. Fifth, lack of efficiency. For example, the disposal rate was about 20 patent cases a year. Further, nearly 70% of the patent cases filed were either pending at some stage.
  6. Sixth, finally, the apathy of the government towards IPAB led to its demise. For example, most of the significant amendments to the Patents Act since 1970 came through, not by way of an Act passed by Parliament, but through an ordinance.

An appellate mechanism allows for the correction of unjustified patent grants at the Patent Office, by error or oversight. An effective appellate mechanism on patent law is critical for the innovation ecosystem.

Source: The Hindu

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