Ramkumar proceeded to challenge these orders before the High Court in a writ petition. He also managed to obtain an ex parte stay of the Customs orders from the High Court. However, after a full hearing of both the parties, the court decided to hold in favour of the importers. In pertinent part, it held that the proper venue for redressal in this case was the Customs Appellate Tribunal, an authority envisaged as the appellate authority under the Customs Act. Since this efficacious alternative remedy was available, the petitioner cannot agitate the matter before the High Court, without first exhausting such alternative remedy.
Ramkumar also argued that the customs authorities had denied him the right to a fair hearing and thereby violated cardinal principles of natural justice. However, the court found that Ramkumar had been offered an opportunity of being heard by all the commissioners. He chose not to appear…and therefore it was incorrect of him to now allege that he was given no opportunity of being heard.
The Ramkumar litigation which has now spanned diverse fora including customs authorities, the Madras High Court, the Gurgaon district court, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Central Excise Authorities, the IPAB and the Delhi High Court is slated to become the biggest IP litigation that India has witnessed so far. Or at least the most “proliferative”.
Even assuming Ramkumar loses, he can take some pride in the fact that he spawned a landmark case and contributed in some way to India’s fledgling patent jurisprudence. Of course, the small time importers who ended up paying him huge sums without questioning his preposterous patent claims are not likely to view him in such a favourable light. If they chose to take him to court and recover moneys they paid him under a mistaken belief, we could have yet another stream of IP “compensatory” jurisprudence emerging, where makers of blatantly false IP claims are penalised by the law and forced to make good the losses.