What was the IPAB?
The Central Government’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry established the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (“IPAB”) on 15th September, 2003, to hear appeals against the decisions passed by the Registrars under the Trade Marks Act, 1999 and the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. At a later stage, the IPAB was also given the power to hear matters under the Patents Act 1970, Copyright Act 1957 and Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act (Plant Varieties Act).
The IPAB was headquartered in Chennai, with branch offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad.
When was the IPAB abolished?
The IPAB was abolished by the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, which the President of India promulgated on 4th April, 2021. The ordinance dissolved various tribunals, including the IPAB and transferred the IPAB’s powers to other judicial bodies.
Why was the IPAB abolished?
The IPAB was abolished primarily because of the slow disposal of cases and consequent backlog before the IPAB.
Prior to the abolishment, matters decided by the IPAB could be further appealed before High Courts and other judicial bodies and therefore by abolishing the IPAB, one level of appeals has effectively been removed. This could lead to an increase in the efficiency of the system.
The abolishment of the IPAB also eliminates the need for the government funds used for funding it.
To which judicial authorities have the IPAB’s powers under various Intellectual Property laws being transferred after the abolishment?
Intellectual Property Act
Judicial body to whom the IPAB’s powers have been transferred after the abolishment of the IPAB
Trademarks Act, 1999
All appeals from orders of the Registrar of Trademarks will lie before the appropriate High Court, as per the jurisdiction of the Registrar of Trademarks whose decision is being appealed.
Patent Act, 1970
All appeals from orders passed by the Controller General of Patents shall lie before the appropriate High Court.
Copyright Act, 1957
Appeals from the orders of the Registrar of Copyright will now lie before the appropriate High Court.
However, certain disputes such as those relating to assignment of copyrights or compulsory/statutory licenses will lie with the appropriate Commercial Courts, that is, a Commercial Court or the Commercial Division of a High Court under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.
Geographical Indications of Goods Act, 1999
The Registrar of High courts and High Courts have received the authority formerly held by the IPAB.
Whether the abolishment of the IPAB actually translates to an increase in efficiency of the disposal of intellectual property disputes is yet to be seen. Furthermore, the abolishment of the IPAB may come with further jurisdictional issues and may put additional pressure on the already burdened High Courts.