One our regular commentators Mr. Praveen Raj, a trademark/GI activist, had earlier petitioned the Intellectual Property Appellate Board to cancel the Tirupati Laddu GI. The full text of the petition which can be accessed over here, on his blog, lists out the grounds on which the GI may be cancelled. More interestingly Mr. Raj requested the IPAB to invoke its suo-moto powers under Section 27 of the GI Act. The IPAB however replied to Mr. Raj’s petition informing him that the IPAB has no power to initiate suo-moto action in this regard.
A reading of Section 27(4) of the Geographical Indications of Goods Act, 1999 suggests that the IPAB does have suo-moto power to cancel the registration of a geographical registration. The IPAB was therefore wrong in denying it has such power. The IPAB clearly has the power to cancel a registered GI on its own own motion. The question now is simply whether it is required to invoke this power on a petition by a member of the public.
‘Suo moto’ by its very definition means by ‘its own motion’ and it is these words which are used by Section 27(4). This means that the IPAB may invoke its powers on its own motion once it is satisfied that there is a need to revoke the GI. There is however no obligation on the IPAB, under Section 27(4) to invoke its powers on the basis of a petition filed by a third party. The ‘suo moto’ power of the IPAB is completely discretionary and the IPAB would be completely justified in not invoking its powers under Section 27(4) of the Act.
The question now comes to whether a ‘public spirited’ person such as Mr. Praveen Raj could be termed as a ‘person aggreived’ under Section 27(1) thereby giving him the right to file a formal petition, in his name, challenging the ‘Tirupati Laddu’ GI. In my understanding Mr. Praveen Raj can easily qualify as an aggreived person therefore giving him the right to challenge the registration. Unlike the Patents Act which defines ‘interested person’ in the context of revocation petitions, the GI Act and the Trade Marks Act, 1999 do not define ‘aggreived person’. Therefore as long as Mr. Raj can locate the cause of his ‘grief’ within the Act he could easily qualify as an ‘aggrieved person’ under Section 27(1). As per his petition it appears that his religious sentiments have been injured by this registration. Further as pointed out in his petition, as per Section 9(d), a GI may not be registered if it ‘comprises or contains any matter likely to hurt the religious susceptibilies of any class or section of the citizens of India’. Therefore if Mr. Raj can sufficiently establish that his religious sentiments have ben injured by this registration there is no reason for him not to qualify as an aggreived person under Section 27(1). In any case it would be interesting to see the fate of such a petition and hopefully Mr. Raj will act as the torchbearer in helping the IPAB defining the contours of an ‘aggreived person’.