Trademark Registry Files Latest Data on Oppositions Before the Delhi High Court

Meme with caption "When they send you the mission report but it isn't clear"

Data on the pendency and disposal of applications and oppositions are extremely crucial to understand the effectiveness of the Indian Patent Office and the Trademarks Registry. But accessing the latest data on the performance of these institutions has been a herculean task. Leaving aside the fate and quality of responses to RTI applications seeking this information (discussed extensively here), the Annual Reports of the Controller General’s office, presumably carrying all the necessary data, are uploaded on a yesteryear basis. So, where should one go to find this data? While we are yet to figure out a permanent response for this question, in a commendable move, the Delhi High Court has given us a glimpse of this data via its last few orders in Dr. Reddy’s Labs v. Controller of Patents

The dispute originally pertained to seeking a clarification on the time limit for filing an opposition in the light of the extension granted by the Supreme Court in Suo Moto writ In re: Cognizance for extension of limitation, has now evolved into a situation whereby the court is keeping a constant check on the number of oppositions heard and disposed of by the Registry (see here and here), by directing the Registry to file periodic status reports (pdf of order dt 20 October 2022) and is then reproducing the data from those reports.

These status reports, filed before the court, respond to the following four questions

  • The number of officials who have started hearing opposition matters;
  • The number of hearings in opposition matters, which have been conducted on a daily basis in each Trademark Office of Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad;
  • The number of oppositions, which have been taken up for hearing and either been settled or have been disposed of; and
  • Latest pendency figures of opposition proceedings with a break-up of pendency in each jurisdiction.

As per the data reproduced in the 3rd Aug 2023 order, to tackle the issue of insufficient workforce, the Registry has explained that a position of 200 Associate Managers have been introduced across the different offices, of which 111 Associate Managers have joined already. Moving to the data on oppositions, of the 14457 oppositions scheduled to be disposed of between 01 January 2023 to 30 May 2023, a total of 24029 cases have been settled or disposed of. Of this 24000+ disposals and settlements, 16438 (i.e. 68%) have been done in the month of May alone!!

Month wise rate of disposal is given below :-

PeriodNumber of Oppositions ScheduledNumber of Cases Settled or Disposed
Table 1 (as explained in the Order): The number of oppositions that have been taken up for hearing and either been settled or have been disposed of since 01.01.2023 upto 30.05.2023

The order also shows a comparison between number of filings against the number of disposals:-

MonthFilingDisposed of
Table 2 (as explained in the Order): Cumulative filing and disposal for all branches in the last five months

The court’s push towards ensuring transparency and keeping a check on the efficiency of the Registry should surely be appreciated. However, the explanation/ description of the data by the Registry is a little unclear. For instance, the heading for data about disposal in Table 1 which shows the number of oppositions heard and disposed/ settled, is unclearly labelled as “number of cases settled or disposed”. Are these the number of oppositions? Or the total number of applications disposed of? Presuming that these figures are oppositions, since applications cannot be “settled,” and the court in the earlier order had specifically asked for information about oppositions, another problem pops up with the information in Table 2. The table is supposed to specify the “cumulative filing and disposal for all branches in the last five months”, however, what does this “filing” specify? Are these the numbers of oppositions filed? Or the total number of applications filed?

Similarly, for the inputs on the total number of pending oppositions in the 5 offices, the report states the number of pending applications (table below) but are these applications in which oppositions have been filed? Or are these just the total number of pending applications before the concerned office?

JurisdictionNumber of applications pending for disposal
Table 3 (as explained in the Order): Latest Pendency figures in opposition proceeding with breakup of pendency in each jurisdiction from 01.01.2023 upto 30.05.2023

[Edit: Clarity on these aspects becomes necessary considering the sudden hike in disposals in a single month. Furthermore, come to think of it, this data is about the number of oppositions disposed of and not the number of oppositions accepted or rejected. The latter would have given a clearer understanding of the overall efficiency of the oppositions in the functioning of the trademark regime and would help us understand how the Registry is generally dealing with them- whether they are overwhelmingly accepting these oppositions? Or rejecting them? These specific clarifications about trademark opposition are necessary considering that oppositions are an indispensable part of not only trademark prosecution, assuring purity of the Register, but also of trademark litigation. It needs to be kept in mind that if oppositions are not properly dealt with, then this can further impinge upon the rights of a party to seek actions against trademark infringement, as one cannot claim infringement against a registered mark unless the impugned mark is rectified which initiates a separate chain of actions, which could have been avoided during the prosecution stage itself.]

Let’s compare this data with the help of the data published in the latest annual report (FY 2021-22). Total 54,990 notices of opposition were issued by the Trademark Registry that year. Assuming that “filings” in Table 2 is the number of oppositions filed, then in that case 66 percent of the total notices of opposition filed in FY 2021-22 have already been filed within the first 5 months this year. And if this trend continues, the number of opposition filed will substantially be higher this year, when compared with the ones reported earlier in the Annual Report.

Speaking of surges, the total number of oppositions and rectification applications disposed of in 2021-22 was 7233. Whereas, in the month of May ’23 oppositions more than double that number have been disposed of. The question then arises- what happened in the month of May to see this sudden hike in the number of disposals? Hopefully, this position will be clarified by the Registry in its future status reports.

H/t to a reader, who would like to stay anonymous, for sharing the latest order with me.

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1 thought on “Trademark Registry Files Latest Data on Oppositions Before the Delhi High Court”

  1. The technical hearing in opposition matters are being counted and the figures touches something higher in the month of May, 2023. The technical hearing in the opposition means the hearing for delayed filing of Counter Statement, Evidence in support of Oppn., Evidence in support of Appln. and Non filing of Counter / Evidence in support of Oppn/Evidence in support of Appln.

    Most of the Assistant Registrars are taking up the simple technical hearing only.

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