In an order dated 8th June, 2009, JP Kundu, Asst Commissioner of Customs found that
“From the foregoing facts, it is clear that the claim made by Shri S Ramkumar is vexatious, because the impugned goods are covered by prior art declared by him and are not infringing the patent granted to him. Demurrage and other warehousing charges arising due to suspension of clearance are liquidated amounts and are to be borne by the Patent Holder.”
The grounds underlying the above decision are broadly the same as that adopted by the customs commissioners in Chennai and Mumbai. The Delhi Commissioner stresses that the essence of Ramkumar’s invention is a dual sim phone that enables “simultaneous communication”. In all the prototypes and allegedly infringing products submitted to him, he finds that none of them enable “simultaneously communication”, though they might have dual SIM sockets and more than one SIM lodged in the phone.
Reading the three customs order, I couldn’t help but notice that they are far more well reasoned than many of the IP orders that come out of our courts. Leaving me to wonder: perhaps I was hasty in once concluding that customs should not be deciding patent matters at all? Given the nature of the adversarial legal system in our country and the oft perceived intelligence of bureaucrats (customs commissioners are IRS officers?), wouldn’t they be upto the task of writing well reasoned patent judgments? Can’t we rely on counsels to furnish sophisticated arguments that would then make for more well informed orders? Or are customs officials just institutionally incompetent to decide such disputes?