As we’ve noted on this blog before, one concrete manifestation of the Indian Government’s desire to promote the adjudication of commercial disputes by specialized tribunals was the enactment of the Commercial Courts Act (“the Act”) in 2015.
Broadly speaking, the Act envisages the resolution of all commercial disputes – a term which includes within its ambit IP disputes – whose commercial value exceeds 1 crore rupees by separately constituted commercial courts or commercial divisions in high courts having original jurisdiction. It outlines a number of procedural provisions aimed at ensuring efficient and expeditious adjudication of such disputes.
One such procedural scheme that the Act introduces relates to the summary disposition of such disputes in accordance with the provisions statutorily engrafted in Order 13-a of the Civil Procedure Code. As Sai Deepak notes in a remarkably lucid exposition of this scheme, it empowers a commercial court, on an appropriate application being filed by the plaintiff or the defendant, to dispose of the suit in a summary fashion viz. without conducting a full dress trial. The court can exercise this power when: (a) the respondent has no real prospect of succeeding on the merits and (b) there is no compelling reason why the suit should not be summarily disposed of.
In a judgment delivered last month, Justice Vibhu Bhakru of the Delhi High Court used this scheme to great effect and summarily disposed of a suit relating to trademark infringement.
The plaintiff in this case, Ahuja Radios, is a partnership firm set up in 1940 which sells public address systems and sound equipment. It has obtained trademark registration for the same in India.
In January 2013, the plaintiff discovered that the defendant was selling counterfeit public address systems and audio equipment bearing the plaintiff’s registered mark.
On the institution of a suit by the plaintiff, the court appointed a local commissioner who inspected the defendant’s premises. This inspection revealed that the defendant was in possession of four amplifiers which as per its own admission weren’t original.
In order to undo the effect of this damning admission, the defendant argued that the counterfeit amplifiers were deliberately planted by the plaintiff in its premises in order to entrap it. It further argued that it is a small trader and was unaware of the plaintiff’s title over the concerned mark, thereby entitling it to the protection under Sec. 135(3)(b) of the Trademarks Act, 1999.
Noting that the plaintiff was undisputedly the registered proprietor of the Ahuja mark and the defendant had admitted its unauthorized use, the Court held that the arguments put forth by the defendant were unlikely to pass muster. Holding that the criteria for the grant of summary disposal had been met in the facts of this case, the court granted a permanent injunction and ordered the delivery of the infringing material to the plaintiff.
As Anand and Anand notes, this case marks the second prominent occasion (the first one being the unauthorized use of the Tata mark on pumps and generators) on which the Delhi High Court has used the provisions under Order 13-A in an IP dispute.
While it is heartening to see the Court leveraging the power of these new procedural provisions at its disposal to the fullest extent possible, one only hopes that it will continue to remain mindful of its bounden obligation to ensure that defendants are not unduly prejudiced by the adoption of such procedures.