Intellectual property (IP) is a business asset of an enterprise, and enables entities to retain their competitive advantage in the marketplace. Having a robust and efficient mechanism for enforcement and litigation of IP is essential.
Such a mechanism only bolsters the inextricable link between IP and innovation, leading to investment, and consequently the growth of an economy.
The Delhi High Court, cognizant of the value of IP to an enterprise, has been leading the way in past decades, having developed into a pioneer forum for adjudication of intellectual property rights (IPR) disputes.
In March, 2018, the Delhi High Court added another feather to its cap. The Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018, have come into effect from 1 March 2018, superseding the Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 1967. The rules have changed the procedural framework for cases filed on the Original Side of the Delhi High Court and IPR suits, eligible to be filed in the Delhi High Court, must be governed by these rules.
This article briefly examines the salient changes that benefit IPR owners and/or that IPR owners should be aware of.
- Service to the defendant. Modifying the manner of service of the court in accordance with growth of technology, a defendant can now be served through email or services such as WhatsApp. Further, the email address available on the defendant’s website and/or public domain is deemed to be the correct address. This is especially helpful in IPR matters because, sometimes, infringers avoid service.
- Completion of pleadings – extensions made difficult. To avoid incurring the wrath of the court, parties should now make all efforts to complete their pleadings within the timeline directed. To seek an extension to file a written statement or replication, a litigant must now show that it was “prevented by sufficient cause for exceptional and unavoidable reasons” to file the same within the original timeline. Further, for any such extension, the parties “must be burdened with costs” and the written statement or replication must not be taken on record until such costs have been paid.
- Admission and Denial affidavits to be filed with pleadings. In the old days, courts used to first wait for completion of pleadings and then direct parties to conduct admission and denial of documents through affidavits, a process which took a few months. The defendant now has to file its affidavit of admission and denial along with its written statement, and the plaintiff has to file its affidavit along with its replication. If either party does not file its affidavit, then the documents of the opposite party must be deemed admitted.
- Manner of Denial in the Pleadings/Affidavit. Any denial of document by any party in the affidavit of admission and denial has to be based on just cause and reason. If the defendant denies jurisdiction or valuation of a suit, it must state its own version for both. Adherence to this provision would ensure that in clear cases of infringement, the defendant does not waste the time of the court through bare denials and redundant pleadings.
- Evidence. The watershed change brought about by the rules are changes in the recording of evidence. Acknowledging that evidence in IPR matters is generally recorded before a court commissioner, the rules introduce provisions that: set stringent timelines; empower the court commissioner to monitor these timelines; permit appointment of interpreters; and allow the conducting of evidence outside court. A local commissioner also has to disclose that it has no conflict of interest.
To ensure the objective of a fast-track trial:
- Evidence is to be recorded before the court commissioner on a day-to-day basis, and the same has to be completed within six months from the date first fixed before it;
- If the evidence is not concluded within the timeline fixed by the court, the commissioner has to furnish a report stating the reasons for delay, and direct parties to seek appropriate orders from the court;
- An adjournment cannot be granted beyond a week, and if a request for more than one week is made, the commissioner has the power to place the same before court;
- If the commissioner feels that the documents are voluminous, exhibit marking of documents can also take place without the presence of the witness.
The rules have streamlined the process for different stages of a lawsuit to achieve expeditious disposal and the framework ensures that there is no wastage of time at any stage. If diligently followed, it is possible that quick disposal of suits without trial may become the norm in the future.
Shrawan Chopra is a partner and Vibhav Mithal is a senior associate at Anand and Anand
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