The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) was a statutory body under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion(DIPP), 2003, which worked under the Trademarks Act 1999. Its main function was to deal with appeals against the Registrar of Trademarks, Geographical Indications, and Controller of Patents, among others. This paper presents a detailed analysis of the roles, structure and recent reforms concerning IPAB.
Structure of IPAB Bench
Each IPAB bench consisted of both technical and judicial members. The provisions of the Trademarks Act governed the appointment of technical members. Appeals had to be filed to the IPAB within three months, and extensions were granted only under specific conditions with valid reasons.
Powers of IPAB
IPAB had the exclusive authority to exercise powers and adjudicate proceedings arising from appeals against decisions made by the Controller of Patents. It was also empowered to consider appeals related to patent cancellation. Section 117-G of the act conferred jurisdiction upon IPAB, giving it control over proceedings previously handled by high courts.
Purpose of IPAB
The primary objective behind establishing IPAB was to ensure the expeditious disposal of cases and alleviate the burden on high and commercial courts. IPAB aimed to streamline the resolution process by appointing both judicial and executive members. However, the efficacy of IPAB in fulfilling its intended purposes came into question, as it failed to achieve speedy case disposal and cost reduction.
Reforms and Abolishment of IPAB
In 2021, the Tribunal Reform Bill was proposed by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to address the issues and gaps associated with various tribunals such as IPAB. So, IPAB was abolished, and its functions were shifted to the commercial and high courts. This reform aimed to simplify the adjudication process and promote efficiency.
While there were legitimate reasons for the abolition of IPAB, the transition of cases from IPAB to commercial and high courts presented challenges and confusion. Facilitating timely and effective settlement of intellectual property disputes falls short within the new set-up, thus leaving it a major task. The recent changes indicate a change in the status of the IPAB, and it is very important to analyze how the new system will control the interests of intellectual property holders.