Patent

‘International Press’ covers Enercon dispute; Indian media continues to give it the royal ignore


The New York Times, the Financial Times and the German Times have all carried stories on Enercon GmBH’s dispute with its Indian partner. We have blogged about the Enercon patent disputes over here and here.

The New York Times carried a fairly balanced piece describing the genesis of the dispute between Enercon GmBh and the Mehra Group; a dispute which eventually cost Enercon GmBH 12 of its patents which were successfully challenged before the IPAB. It also speculates that the dispute may have clouded India’s image in Germany as a favourable investment destination especially since the dispute has been widely covered by the German press. Enercon GmBH’s lawyer Mr. Knottnerus-Meyer has been quoted as saying that his company considers the joint-venture – Enercon India – as a lost investment despite owning the majority stake and that, they do not seek to re-enter the Indian market. As of now it appears that they only want to protect their patents and trademarks in India without conducting any business over here. The NYT piece however balances this out by pointing to Enercon’s history of misadventures in the U.S. wherein they tried suing for patent infringement and ended up being barred from the U.S. market for a few years. Add to this their misguided adventure in the U.K. where they tried to sue for infringement but ended up having their patents revoked and I’d be tempted to claim that Enercon’s karma has come back to bite them in their backside.

The Financial Times reports that the dispute has the potential to disrupt Indo-German economic ties especially since the German Trade Minister has already written to the Indian Commerce Minister warning him of the same.

The piece in the German Times repeats the same old nonsense about how the revoked patents were considered inventive in other jurisdictions like the U.S., Europe and Japan. The journalist was obviously not aware of the U.K. case where Enercon GmBH actually admitted to its own patents being invalid! The German Times also reveals that an industrial spy was arrested from one of Enercon’s German plants and eventually convicted for industrial espionage.

All three pieces also report on something which I was unaware of until now and that is the fact that the Mehra Group had filed a police complaint in the year 2009 against the management of Enercon GmBH and that the Mumbai Police actually took in two Germans for questioning on charges that they were conspiring against the wealth of the Mehra Group. Nobody was however arrested. A search of the Bombay High Court website reveals that Enercon’s subsequent writ petition led to a landmark judgment in criminal law. The judgment is available over here and it names both Dr. Wobbens and his lawyer Mr. Knottnerus-Meyer as the petitioners, which I guess means that they were the accused. The Bombay High Court is yet to decide whether the police can even begin an investigation against the Germans. The High Court is empowered to quash any police investigation if it finds that it is being conducted without any real basis in law.

It is most unfortunate that the Mehra Group involved the police in this commercial dispute. It is even more unfortunate that the idiotic laws of this country allow for such police investigations into what are primarily commercial disputes that should be the subject of civil courts and not police stations. Patent revocations are eminently defensible, criminal investigations into a shareholder tiff are not as defensible, atleast to an international audience. I wouldn’t really blame German companies who think a thousand times before entering the Indian market.

Prashant Reddy

Prashant Reddy

T. Prashant Reddy graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, with a B.A.LLB (Hons.) degree in 2008. He later graduated with a LLM degree (Law, Science & Technology) from the Stanford Law School in 2013. Prashant has worked with law firms in Delhi and in academia in India and Singapore. He is also co-author of the book Create, Copy, Disrupt: India's Intellectual Property Dilemmas (OUP).

4 comments.

  1. AvatarAnonymous

    Hi Prashant, as someone who has followed and worked on some parts of the Enercon dispute very closely, it’s probably best that the press does not report on it. Most indian press reports are neither accurate nor do justice to the substance of the legal issues involved. In the context of this dispute, it’s best if rumours are not unnecessarily spread by the fourth estate.

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  2. AvatarAnonymous

    how come none of the Indian media have reported this legal battle which is apparently being closely followed by the international industry? or like prashant has pointed out in the ‘indian perspectives’ post,has the indian media realised that enercon germany’s interests are ones being safeguarded in this context?

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  3. AvatarAnonymous

    Hello Prashant,

    Well my comment has to do with the caption of your post. Particularly the word “International Press” and then mention of “Financial Times”. All in lighter vein…
    I think it would not go well with the barons sitting on 4th Floor of the Times House. You must be well aware that BCCL is fighting a pitched battle over the trademark rights on the marks FT and Financial Times…well all waht can be said about it is “Whither Spill Over Reputation”
    Cheers !!

    Reply
  4. AvatarABC

    Hello folks,

    My recent visit to Spicy IP has been quite educational. I liked that the blog is so receptive to opinions and info from readers. Therefore I am taking the liberty to draw your attention to another dispute reported in Economic Times on 28th April http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/policy/should-government-support-davids/articleshow/8104813.cms, which seems to have escaped the attention of Spicy IP.
    This dispute uncovers some contentious aspects of our IP debate – indigenous innovation in software and respect for Indian IP abroad (Germany …). I hope your blog discusses the finer points of the dispute and breaks it down for us lay readers.

    Reply

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