India is currently on the precipice of fulfilling its role as a global economic powerhouse. With the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy expected to be released soon and palpable excitement surrounding the government’s “Make in India” initiative, a nation-building initiative
introduced by India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, devised to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub, and which is steadily gathering steam, this is an exciting time for the country, and indeed, for the global trademark community.
In recognition of this fact, INTA has consciously stepped up its activities in India in the past few years, mainly to provide a meaningful way for brand owners and trademark practitioners in the country to participate and have their voices heard. To facilitate this objective, INTA’s Annual India Delegation visits are held specifically to engage all key stakeholders on pertinent issues affecting trademarks in an effort to shape policy and make a difference.
INTA’s 2016 Delegation visit to India successfully and significantly elevated the Association’s engagement with key stakeholders. The Delegation met with local members, cabinet ministers, high-ranking government officials, enforcement agencies, including the police and Customs and prominent trade/IP bodies. In a first for the Association’s activities in the country, the Annual Delegation met with India’s Minister of Law and Justice.
This year’s India Delegation included INTA’s 2016 President Ronald van Tuijl and INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo. They were joined by both corporate and associate members in India to attend high-level meetings as part of the Delegation. The three-day event started in Mumbai on March 2 before moving to New Delhi for more meetings on March 3 and 4. Noteworthy observations from the official meetings included a sense of increased camaraderie, as well as the development of concrete action points to drive INTA’s India initiatives in the coming months.
Meeting with Senior Representatives of the Indian Trademarks Registry
Given INTA’s increasingly dynamic interface with the Indian Trademarks Office in the past two years, with the creation of the Trademark Office Practices—India Subcommittee, it was fitting that the Delegation met with the Office of the Controller General of India. As the Controller General himself was not available, due to a ministerial engagement, he nominated his top staff, including R.A. Tiwari (Deputy Registrar of Trademarks), S.D. Ojha and Sachin Sharma (both Assistant Registrars of Trademarks) to attend the meeting.
Mr. van Tuijl explained that the purpose of the visit was to further strengthen the goodwill that prevails between the Association and the Trademarks Office. INTA Board Members Hemant Singh (Inttl Advocare, India) and Mohan Dewan (RK Dewan and Co., India) expressed their appreciation on behalf of the Association on the opposition backlog clearance drives that have recently been announced by the Controller General. These drives also include mediation, which is a first for the Registry. Members were extremely encouraged to see that the Registry had taken note of these suggestions, which formed part of an INTA paper submitted to the Controller General in November 2015 by the Trademarks Office Practices—India Subcommittee. INTA’s offer to conduct collaborative Examiner Seminars was discussed further and Mr. Tiwari requested that INTA conduct a follow-up meeting with them to establish the design and logistics of the seminars. INTA corporate member Sarita Joglekar (Reliance Industries Limited, India) suggested that, as brand owners are the Trademarks Registry’s primary stakeholders, the Registry should make it a priority to seek their views on policy matters. The officials took this suggestion on board and said that brand owners are always welcome to submit their comments and feedback to the Controller General.
As an apt conclusion to this highly positive interaction, Mr. van Tuijl handed over a personal invitation from Mr. Sanz de Acedo to the Controller General, O.P. Gupta, to attend INTA’s 138th Annual Meeting in Orlando and participate as a speaker at an all-day workshop developed exclusively for IP offices.
After this meeting, the INTA Delegation hosted a prospective member lunch and a Corporate Strategic Brand Management Workshop at the St. Regis Mumbai hotel. The robust participation of 115 attendees in the workshop included an impressive representation from 50 corporates. The workshop is covered in greater detail here
Meeting with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion
In New Delhi, the INTA Delegation met Rajiv Aggarwal, Joint Secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. This meeting was significant in terms of reiterating INTA’s commitment to supporting the DIPP in its policy initiatives under the “Make in India” program, and ease of doing business in the country. Mr. Sanz de Acedo took the opportunity to congratulate the DIPP on the success of the Make in India Week held in February.
Mr. Aggarwal stated that he was very pleased to see how dynamic INTA has become globally, as well as in India. He then participated in a lively discussion with the Delegation, addressing certain concerns and updating everyone on issues, including the quality of trademark examinations, recordals backlog, online filings, the National IPR Policy, the problem of counterfeiting, the advent of commercial courts and the amendment of Section 115(4) of the Trade Marks Act, which currently requires the Registrar’s opinion prior to a search and seizure being carried out.
Mr. Aggarwal reaffirmed support of INTA-TMO collaborative Examiner Seminars and other INTA initiatives in India. At the suggestion of Mr. Sanz de Acedo, Mr. Aggarwal said he would be happy to have INTA and the Controller General collaborate on a program aimed at educating children on IP and counterfeiting. As a concrete action point, a joint working group of INTA and the Trademarks Office will be formed to move this project ahead.
Meeting with the Customs Commissioner, Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC)
As has become customary over the last few years, the INTA Delegation was delighted to have a very amiable meeting with Sandeep Kumar, India’s Commissioner of Customs, and his colleagues from the CBEC. During this meeting, Mr. Kumar thanked INTA for supporting a conference organized by the CBEC and Fidus Law Chambers in February 2016, titled “Combatting Counterfeits in Electronic Commerce—Evolving a Voluntary Code of Practice.” Discussions held included INTA’s participation as a representative of brand owners in the working group set up by the CBEC to develop this voluntary code in India. Shwetasree Majumder (Fidus Law Chambers, India), Co-chair of the India Global Advisory Council, requested that the Commissioner keep in mind INTA’s suggestions during an ongoing software overhaul at the Customs department. These suggestions, submitted last year, pertain to the essential ingredients that ought to be present in all customs notices addressed to IP owners.
Mr. Kumar also assured INTA of CBEC’s support for the Association’s anticounterfeiting initiatives in India.
Meeting with D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Minister of Law and Justice, Government of India
The Delegation’s meeting with D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Minister of Law and Justice, Government of India, was notable, as it was INTA’s first introduction to and interaction with a serving cabinet minister of the Indian government. Also present at the meeting was P. K. Malhotra, Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs.
Mr. Gowda was very pleased to hear a brief history of INTA, its membership profile, and its initiatives globally and in India. He requested that the Delegation speak freely about areas in which INTA needs assistance. This gesture from the Minister of Law is reflective of the present government’s dedication to the objective of improving the ease of doing business in India and thus, increasing investor confidence. INTA congratulated Mr. Gowda and the Ministry of Law on the Commercial Courts Act, a very progressive piece of legislation that will boost the quality and speed of IP adjudication in the country.
One issue that the Delegation raised was that of the above-mentioned proviso to Section 115(4) of the Indian Trade Marks Act. The Delegation asked for the Minister’s support on removal of this proviso, which is unanimously deemed to obstruct effective criminal IP enforcement in the country and is counterproductive to the government’s policy initiatives. Both Mr. Gowda and Mr. Malhotra appreciated this genuine concern. They have requested that INTA take up this issue with the relevant ministry by submitting a representation on behalf of the industry. They also assured INTA that the Ministry of Law would look at possible solutions and mechanisms together with the concerned administrative ministry.
Other Notable Meetings
The INTA Delegation also had the pleasure of meeting two sitting Delhi High Court judges, Justice Manmohan Singh and Justice J.R. Midha. Justice Singh had previously attended many INTA Annual Meetings as an INTA member before becoming a judge. Mr. Sanz de Acedo extended an invitation to both judges to attend INTA’s 138th Annual Meeting in Orlando and participate in a program being developed in which judges from different countries would be in attendance.
Other interactions included an introductory meeting with the Joint Commissioner of the Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police to discuss the role of the police in identification of counterfeits during seizures and to offer INTA’s support in training police officials; a meeting with IP Attachés to learn more about their key missions in India and to share a brief about INTA’s activities in the country; discussions with representatives of ICC BASCAP and FICCI CASCADE to explore the possibility of a joint project on the theme of the interface between IT and IP to curb the counterfeiting menace; a meeting with the Intellectual Property Attorneys Association (IPAA) and Asian Patent Attorneys Association (APAA) India Group President; as well as a lunch meeting with the newly appointed India Global Advisory Council.
Pre–Annual Meeting Reception
The Delegation concluded with a spectacular pre–
Annual Meeting Reception hosted for INTA in New Delhi by Prathiba M. Singh
, an INTA member and member of the government-appointed IPR Think-Tank. Along with INTA members, this reception was attended by cabinet ministers of the Indian government, Supreme Court and Delhi High Court judges, senior lawyers, corporates and IP Attachés.
With the number of concrete action points emerging from the meetings held over the three days, INTA definitely will have a busy and constructive year ahead in India.
INTA would like to extend sincere thanks to the supporters of the Association’s efforts in India, including, in addition to all of those mentioned above, Pravin Anand (Anand & Anand, India), India Global Advisory Council Co-Chair Ranjan Narula (RNA IP, India), Murlidhar Balasubramanian (Castrol India Limited, India), Snehal Vedak (Mahindra & Mahindra, India) and Shailendra Bhandare (Khaitan & Co., India).
For more on INTA’s activities in India, contact Gauri Kumar, INTA India Consultant, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.
© 2016 International Trademark Association