Trademark

The ‘missing files’ at the IPO: Time for a CAG audit?


Earlier this year, we had blogged about the shocking disappearance of around 44,000 missing files from the 5 offices of the trademark registry. The 44,000 missing files had come to light after Justice Murlidhar of the Delhi High Court, hearing a petition by Haldiram Pvt. Ltd., ordered the DIPP to investigate the same. A few months after that internal investigation supervised by Ms. Chandni Raina, Director of the DIPP, the Controller General’s office issued a public notice, informing the general public that the number of physical files missing had been reduced to 8183 after further stock-taking. Image from here.
Needless to say, the initial figure of 44,000 files left several of us shocked out of our wits. I had filed a RTI application a couple of months ago with the DIPP for a copy of the investigation report + a copy of the affidavit filed by the DIPP before the Delhi High Court in the case of the missing files. I’ve received a copy of both documents (3 pages missing though) which are now available for download over here
Interestingly, the DIPP in response to one of my queries has also informed me that the Government has not initiated any administrative or criminal proceedings against a single official, in the case of the thousands of missing files at the TM Registry. This reply can be accessed over here. Readers may remember that the Controller General himself had requested for a CBI probe against the staff at the trademark registry for alleged corruption. Why is it then that the DIPP is not lifting a finger against anybody in the trademark office? Regardless of whether it is corruption or inefficiency, somebody has to be held accountable for 44,000 missing files. Why is there a complete lack of political will to enforce the law? Is the DIPP waiting for somebody to petition the courts seeking a CBI probe into the matter? So far, the DIPP has only filed 2 criminal complaints (FIR) with respect to the missing Haldiram files. What about the remaining 8000 files? Why have they not filed any FIRs with respect to the remaining 8000 files? Missing or destroyed government files are serious business – punishable under the law. 
The bigger issue however, in my opinion, is the actual magnitude of missing files? The reason for my doubt is the fact that the DIPP’s inquiry has been an ‘in-house’ audit with the DIPP depending on the staff at the Trade Marks Registry. This is like asking Ramalinga Raju to conduct an audit of Satyam’s accounts. There is a clear ‘conflict of interest’. How can the people accused to being responsible for the missing files, conduct an audit to trace these missing files? I don’t blame the DIPP for using the TM staff to audit the files because they had to submit a report immediately to the Delhi High Court but now that it does not have any deadline to meet, it should request an audit by the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) into the missing files at both the Trade Marks Registry and the Patent Office. The CAG is the only constitutional body with the expertise and resources to carry out a large-scale audit. 
Let’s keep in mind that the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the largest revenue earning department for the Government of India. In 2009-2010 the IPO earned revenue of Rs. 215.25 crores for the Government. Obviously missing files are going to affect the GoI’s revenue and that in itself is a ground for CAG to audit the IPO. However apart from the question of missing revenue, we must remember that the trademark and patent rights are unique rights, in the sense that they are the only state created/sanctioned monopolies which seriously restrict the fundamental rights of other citizens. Any fraud or inefficiency at the IPO will result in a large scale violation of fundamental rights.  
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).

7 comments.

  1. AvatarAnonymous

    Genuine problem is described.
    CAG can:
    ‘promote accountability, transparency and good governance through high quality auditing and accounting and provide independent assurance to our stakeholders, the Legislature, the Executive and the Public, that public funds are being used efficiently and for the intended purposes.’

    Can CAG investigate the missing files? Perhaps not. So, the proposal may not be too good.

    What about the huge missing files in the patents and designs? Kolkata, Delhi patent offices have many re-constituted files. Most of these files are made ‘missing’ so that a channel of money starts starting from Group D staff to the authority who allows such reconstitution. Who will investigate this matter? CBI or Central Vigilance Commission? I am an active inventor and I faced lot of troubles in locating my files. Staffs and the authority used to seek money from me for those so-called ‘missing’ files.

    The authority of the Patent Office has no accountability, no transparency. Similar thing is with the Trade Marks office. It is a dangerous signal to the public from the authority of the Patent Office and the Trade Mark office that they are involved in corruption in the office. A recent feedback by an ex officer of IPO exposes lack of accountability, corruption in response to a discussion paper of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion.

    I invite all the stakeholders to fight strongly against this menace. Spicy IP should start investigative journalism to locate the corrupt officers in IPO and place a strong appeal before the government to give a severe punishment to those staffs and officers of IPO.

    Reply
  2. AvatarAnonymous

    There are many patent files of which there is no trace, for example patents granted in the 1990s – number 180000 onwards up to <193000. These records appear in the Journal (through BigPatents), but are not accessible through the IPIRS website.

    Old archive copies of journals were earlier accessible (a couple of years ago), but are not accessible now. Perhaps the IPO office are still working on restoring these records?

    Reply
  3. Avataratulbandhus

    Your Spicy blog has taken up again the issue of missing files in TM registry, though this issue has been raked up by your blog in earlier occasion also, wherein, many blog readers have brought out lackadaisical attitude of the DIPP and CGPTDM, who were mainly interested in saving the skin of his own officials, who were part of the plot of missing files. I have documents to prove that Mr. V. Ravi has saved the skin of his junior official, who was caught red handed in Delhi TM registry while removing and destroying files of the Trademarks and oppositions files of the trademarks, the said official was given minimum penalty by Mr. Ravi who was then acting CG and now i have come to know that the said junior official and Mr. V Ravi has been honorably retired from their respective services.\

    I squarely blamed Mr. V Ravi who knew about missing files and names of the junior rank officials who were involved in removing the files thus now Mr. V Ravi can not claim innocence on the missing of files, as you do not have procedure in this b;log to put attachments, hence i am sending the email with attachment of documents to Mr. Prashant which shows that how the said junior clerk was allowed to get scot free from penalty of dismissal of service to mere warning given by Mr. V Ravi who was then acting as CG so DIPP and TM registry of giving clean chit to Mr. Ravi and to the said official is illegal rather to my utter surprise in plcae of dismissing the service of Mr. V Ravi ha has been showered with technical Member Job in IPAB rather DIPP officials have took and kept Technical Member IPAB post vacant specially for him for last eight months against the the established rules of the DOPT wherein DOPT guidelines or rules suggest that Class A service appointment can not be extended beyond 90 days, so why DIPP has kept the said vacancy of the IPAB vavcant for such a long time.

    It clearly shows that DIPP is bent upon sending Mr. V Ravi to IPAB despite of missing of 44404 files of Trademarks from TM registries.

    Why DIPP has not conducted inquiry on this missing files why DIPP has initiated action on the officials of the TM re4gistry, who have removed th files from TM office. The intention of the DIPP by filing FIR shows that they have full knowledge about the missing files and deliberately did not initiated action against their favored officials reason best known to them

    Reply
  4. AvatarAnonymous

    Prashant,
    It will be interest to everyone concerned that you give a link to the said documents which atulbandhus has/have sent you. Please do not deprive us to see those documents.
    From the attachments you have already given, I have noticed that it has been mentioned in the report that “No systematic record of movement of files was kept at the TMR Mumbai or at the branch registry. There are many more things which have come to light in the report of the CGPDTM. However, it seems that except filing of an FIR in Haldiram case in Dwarka Police Station and perhaps an FIR in Kolkatta (again for another Haldiram file), nothing more has been done. NO enquiry, no fixing of responsibility and no other FIR.
    It is strange to know that the TMR has no movement register. Every other Government office has the movement register. I wonder how employees work in TM Office without the movement register. If that continues, the files will keep on missing and no one would be held responsible as every one would shed his responsibility (or show ignorance) about the missing file.
    Can TMR give the list of missing files which are not registered and are pending at different stages?

    Reply
  5. Avataratulbandhus

    Dear Prashant

    As per my reply comments to your blog I have sent you an email with attachment to get it publish in your blog but though you have received my email 3 days back n you have not pasted in your blog so far.

    These are the documents, which clearly shows that every body in TM registry knew the fate of missing files and even DIPP officers knew it but some how they are not interested in opening the box of worms , which ultimately going to damage them too, as DIPP officers have not initiated the inquiry so far in to missing files as being administrative ministry of the TM registry nor even now they are not interested in finding the culprits as they are very much sure if they start inquiry than their favorite person appointment will be in soup, which they do not want at all in any manner and they have kept the technical Member appointment in abeyance or vacant so far of the IPAB till date rather since the May 13th of 2011.

    I have copies of the RTI reply received from Ms. Raina Director DIPP, who has informed that the said appointment of Mr. Ravi is being kept in abeyance since May 2011 till date.

    I do not know, why they have kept this Technical Member appointment of IPAB in abeyance or pending for last seven months beyond the period of 90 days, as precedence the DOPT usually does in Member CAT appointments, the said appointments get lapsed after expiry of 90 days if no one joins the said appointment with in 90 days but Mr. Ravi appointment has been kept vacant for last over 7 months especially for him beyond any comprehensible reasons.

    Another intriguing aspect is that I asked DIPP in another RTI query that whether at any time secretary or any other officer of DIPP received any complaint / representation to the said destroying / theft of official records from TM registry of Delhi and the said official Ms. Chandini Raina had replied in negative saying that they never had received any such representation from any person.

    Though I know they had received the representation from TM registry Employee union but they had ignored the said representation and had not initiated inquiry in to the affairs of the missing files even after receipt of the said representation, the copy of the representation you can see in the bunch of documents I had sent it across to you for publication. The DIPP in place of initiating inquiry even despite of court order has kept silent on this aspect deliberately to save their skin of the officials, who are very much involved in removing of official records.

    Than what proves on the part of DIPP and CGPDTM that they are very much aware of the missing files to the tune of 44404 and deliberately are not initiating action against former acting CG and I am sure they will not initiate inquiry in to said affairs till some one files contempt petition in High Court of Delhi

    I am submitting the link for the readers to see the bunch of papers related to the removal of records from Delhi TM registry. the link address is as follows:
    http://www.4shared.com/document/YfxEOC16/Documents_related_to_missing_f.html

    Reply
  6. AvatarAnonymous

    There are many such files missing in the Patent Office too. Controllers have sat on such files after hearing was conducted as they could not force examiners to take decisions for them. After unusually long periods of sitting on the files they conveniently marked them “missing”. An enquiry on hearings conducted and corresponding decisions issued by controllers would bring out the truth.Repeated requests to higher authorities in this regard have been stonewalled as they do not want to open the proverbial can of worms.

    Reply

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