SpicyIP Tidbit: SC Calls Out “Disturbing Trend” of Settling IPR Issues Through Interim Orders

As per strict doctrine, interim orders are issued on the basis of a prima facie impression, to prevent “irreparable harm“, by virtue of a party’s actions, during the duration of the proceedings. But in effect, courts haven’t really been solving matters in accordance with settled doctrine, and have largely been sticking to settling matters, almost conclusively, through interim orders.

You can find considerable coverage on SpicyIP on the same here.

A Supreme Court Bench, comprising of J. Ranjan Gogoi and J. Navin Sinha, upon reviewing an interim order passed by the Delhi HC, noted that the HC’s interim order was effectively a decision on merits and consequently, questioned if the the HC’s decision to go into the merits of the case for passing an interim order was an implicit acceptance of the assertion that interim orders effectively decide IPR cases:

“Having read the order of the High Court of Delhi dated 10th March, 2017 passed in FAO(OS) No.1/2017 we find that it is virtually a decision on merits of the suit. We wonder if the High Court has thought it proper to write such an exhaustive judgment only because of acceptance of the fact that the interim orders in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) matters in the Delhi High Court would govern the parties for a long duration of time and disposal of the main suit is a far cry.

In fact, the SC went as far as to set aside the specific concerns in the relevant interim order that was under review, and chose to, first, deal with the”disturbing trend” of treating interim orders as final decisions:

This is a disturbing trend which we need to address in the first instance before delving into the respective rights of the parties raised in the present case.

Next, the SC directed the Registrar General of the Delhi HC to submit a report consisting of categorized data related to IPR suits, along with suggestions to remedy the issue:

We, therefore, direct the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court to report to the Court about the total number of pending IPR suits, divided into different categories, in the Delhi High Court; stage of each suit; and also the period for which injunction/interim orders held/holding the field in each of the such suits. The Registrar General of the Delhi High Court will also indicate to the Court what, according to the High Court, would be a reasonable way of ensuring the speedy disposal of the suits involving intellectual property rights which are presently pending.

The deadline for filing of the report was set for two weeks later (14th August).

The SC scheduled the next hearing for 16th August, on which date the bench has promised to not only look into the specific concerns of the interim order under review, but also consider the report directed to be filed:

We will expect the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court to report to the Court within two weeks from today, latest by 14th August, 2017. The matter will be listed again on 16th August, 2017 on which date the Court will not only consider the report to be filed by the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court but also the specific issues that have been raised by the parties in the present case.

You can refer to the entirety of the order on LiveLaw’s report (accessible here).

Meme by Prateek Surisetti.

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1 thought on “SpicyIP Tidbit: SC Calls Out “Disturbing Trend” of Settling IPR Issues Through Interim Orders”

  1. Unexceptionable, in principle. But in practice, where to draw the line without perpetuating an injustice through the duration of a long trial? In quite a few trademark and copyright cases very little turns on trial evidence: there’s either an apparent infringement needing to be restrained or there isn’t. If it’s a commercial suit now, under the newly inserted Order XIII-A, the Court can give a summary judgement, which solves the problem. But what about genuinely aggrieved parties who can’t afford the Court fees to value their suit at a crore? Court fees are high for many in Delhi but really prohibitive in, for example, UP. The legislature should, surely, have made summary judgements possible in all IP suits.

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