The pandemic, an unprecedented crisis, has turned out to be a business opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry, with the industry reaping benefits from its Intellectual Property. There has been a plethora of Trademark and Patent Applications being filed around the world for the formative names of the virus, also widely referred to as COVID-19 or CORONA, both globally as well as in India, for medicines and pharmaceutical products, hand sanitizers, etc.
Since the ending of the first quarter of 2020, we have witnessed a rapid increase in the number of trade mark applications filed with the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks, for terms like ‘CORONA SANITIZER’, ‘CORONA SAFE’, COVID SANJEEVANI’ and ‘COVID RELIEF’. However, the question that lies before us is whether these formative marks using words ‘COVID’ and ‘CORONA’ can be registered under the Indian laws.
The paradox of safety
While this seems the best times for the pharmaceutical companies to cash on their resources by protecting their Intellectual Property Rights, we need to understand that when it comes to medicines in India, we have to be extra cautious. Granting a trademark for a COVID-19 or CORONA formative mark can be confusing and also a health hazard for the consumers, especially when medicines are sold over the counters in India. Adding to this, the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, which provides checks and balances with regards to the advertisement of drugs in India, prohibits publication of any advertisement referring to any drug in terms which suggest or are calculated to lead to the use of that drug for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease, disorder or condition specified in the rules formulated under the aforesaid Act. The Apex Court of India observed in the Hamdard Dawakhana (Wakf) Lal Kuan, Delhi & Another vs. Union of India & Others (1960 AIR 554), that “the object of the Act as shown by the scheme of the act, is the prevention of selfmedication and self-treatment and a curb on such advertisements is a means to achieve that end”. Prohibition on advertisements and lack of knowledge regarding the name of the medicine and the salts present in it, can cause an average consumer to buy a drug from a local pharmacy that may have the words ‘COVID’ or ‘CORONA’ in its brand name but may have nothing to do with treating the aforesaid virus
Further, Section 13 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 (TM Act) mandates that words that are names of chemical elements or International Non-proprietary Names (INNs) or any deceptively similar names shall not be registered under the TM Act. However, despite this provision, there is a need of a separate set of rules and regulations specifically for pharmaceutical trademarks in the interest of public health and in order to prevent confusion among consumers. Recently, a case of consumer confusion was seen, when an Ayurvedic Company in India – Patanjali – started advertising that their products could cure the novel virus without getting prior approvals of the government.
Is ‘COVID’ or ‘CORONA’ descriptive?
Finally, when we see all the marks that are mentioned above, we see a descriptive element in each and every mark, as they are referring to either ‘COVID’ or ‘CORONA’. Descriptive trademarks are generally prohibited from being registered under Section 9 of the TM Act. But what is a descriptive mark? A descriptive trademark, as we can see above from the COVID and CORONA formative marks, draws direct reference to the products or services for which it seeks protection or is already registered. In this case the COVID and CORONA formative marks clearly make a direct reference to the pandemic, and can be argued to be descriptive.
It is imperative to understand that in the pharmaceutical industry, there is a higher level of threshold to grant a registration to any trademark. This is so because of an important characteristic when it comes to the consumer, which is ‘health’. In a country like ours where the illiteracy rates are so high and at a time when public health is being prioritized above everything, there cannot be any scope for deception in medical products, as any confusion may lead to immense harm – maybe fatal – to the consumer. As drugs are available easily over the counter without any prescription, a simple confusion relating to the name of the drug can lead to another health hazard, perhaps even more severe than the pandemic itself. If the abovementioned potential trademarks are granted protection and are allowed to sell medicines, they may start a wave of confusion, as they are phonetically similar names.
Various judicial decisions have been passed by the courts in India that have propounded on the ‘health’ threshold that one should consider before granting Intellectual Property Rights protection to pharmaceutical. The Apex Court of India in the landmark judgment of Cadila Healthcare Ltd. vs. Cadila Pharmaceutical Ltd., 2001 5 SCC 73 observed that the confusion in drugs could be life threatening and drugs should be treated as poison since any confusion in medicinal products can have harmful consequences on the purchasers of such medicinal products. When we talk about confusion and deception from the eyes of an average consumer, at times we are set in a dilemma as to what may or may not cause confusion. The question of ‘possibility’ and ‘probability’ of confusion was considered in the case of Wyeth Holdings Corporation and another vs. Sun Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd., 2004 (28) PTC 423. In this case, two similar trade marks in the name of ‘PACITANE’ and ‘PARKITANE’ were considered which were used for treating Parkinson’s disease. The court held that the customers and the trade channels were the same, and that the defendant had adopted the plaintiff’s mark with a dishonest intention. There was a ‘possibility’ of confusion between both the marks and this could jeopardize the lives of the consumers. As the balance of convenience was in favour of the plaintiffs, the court granted injunction in favour of the plaintiffs. Thus, in each case one would have to see if there would be a ‘possibility’ of confusion if a COVID and CORONA formative mark was granted trademark registration.
At present, most of the ‘COVID’ and ‘CORONA’ formative marks that have been applied for a registration are at the examination stage. It will be interesting to see the scenario unfold once the examination reports with respect to these applications come out. We surely can expect a lot of marks being objected on the basis of descriptiveness as well as similarity to an existing application. Apart from this, we may also see invocation of Section 13 of the TM Act. No matter what the outcome of the examination report be, it will be interesting to see whether the registry grants a registration to any ‘COVID’ or ‘CORONA’ formative mark, and the interpretation of Courts on these issues when the matter comes up for enforcement. We are of the view that pharmaceutical companies should do a thorough legal analysis before finalizing a brand name for their medical products and not adopt the word ‘CORONA’ or ‘COVID’ simply because they feel that it may attract consumers.
Krrishan Singhania, Founder and Managing Partner, and Vanshaj Mehta, Associate, K Singhania & Co. (formerly Singhania & Co. Mumbai)
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GAUHATI HIGH COURT QUASHES NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION AGAINST GRAM PANCHAYAT PRESIDENT CITING PARTICIPATION OF MEMBER DISQUALIFIED FOR HAVING THREE CHILDREN
The Gauhati High Court in the case Jugitawali Pawe v State of Assam and 15 ors observed and quashed a resolution expressing no-confidence in the petitioner – the President of a Gram Panchayat, as a result of which she as removed from office. It was stated that it is as per the citing no compliance with Assam Panchayat Act, 1994, reading with Rule 62 of the Assam Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1995.
It was preferred by the petitioner to the materials available on record to argue that one of the members of the Gaon Panchayat, the respondent. The respondent voted against the petitioner and had given birth to her third child the previous year. Moreover, by virtue of Section 111(2)(a) of the Assam Panchayat Act, 1994, reading with Rule 62 of the Assam Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1995, the petitioner stood automatically disqualified on the date of voting. Following, which her vote was taken by passing No-confidence motion.
It was prayed by the petitioner in the plea for setting aside the impugned resolution and for issuance of a direction to restore his client back in the office. Thereafter, to initiate fresh proceedings, liberty should be granted to the respondent, following the due process.
It was agreed by the Counsel representing for the respondent that the said member of the panchayat had been disqualified but retained on the ground that the disqualification would have no bearing on the petitioner’s case, as the impugned resolution was passed before the declaration of petitioner disqualification.
In the present case, It was noticed by Justice Suman Shyam the member had voted against the petitioner and without her vote. The petitioner would not have been ousted from office. Justice Shyam also found no dispute about the fact that the member had incurred disqualification under the law prior the date of adoption of the impugned resolution. Justice Shyam found it unnecessary to delve into other aspects of the matter which includes the procedural formalities for declaring the member a disqualified candidate.
It is observed that the impugned resolution was declared to be vitiated and liable to be set aside. Further, the Court restored the petitioner to the office of the President of the Bongalmara Gaon Panchayat with immediate effect and it was stated by the court that the order will not stand in the way should the authorities or any member of the Gaon Panchayat propose a fresh motion of “no-confidence” against the petitioner and the due process of law needs to be followed.
Halt DDA’s demolition action against jhuggis in Nizamuddin’s Gyaspur area, orders Delhi High Court
As per the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015 and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, the residents who can establish their residence prior to 01.01.2015 are eligible for rehabilitation under the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015.
The Delhi High Court in the case Manoj Gupta & Ors. v. DDA & Ors observed and has ordered status quo on the Delhi Development Authority’s proposal to demolish jhuggi clusters in city’s Gyaspur area in Hazrat Nizamuddin. The vacation bench comprising of Justice Neena Bansal Krishna observed in the petition filled by the residents and the court granted an interim relief.
It was ordered by the court status quo till July 11, the next date of hearing.
The bench orally remarked that a ten-day delay in demolition won’t make a difference but if today it is demolished and later, we come to know that they were entitled, who’s going to… the bench will consider it on July 11, 2022 but in the Meanwhile, some protections are entitled them. Adding this, Status quo be maintained. If since 1995, they have been there, heavens won’t come down if for 10 more days they are protected.
In the plea the petitioner stated that the T-Huts settlement in the area, which was stated by the authorities to vacate. It has been in existence for almost two decades and compromise of 32 jhuggis or households.
In the plea it was alleged that the bulldozers have been parked around the camp and a DDA official has orally asked them to vacate the area and it is noted that till date no proper notice have been sent to them nor has DDA conducted any survey of the area.
Furthermore, the DDA did not provide any alternate arrangement for their rehabilitation which resulted in extreme distress among the residents.
Moreover, it was admitted by the petitioner that the land in question belongs to DDA and they may seek that status-quo to be maintained at the site. It was urged that the residents should not be physically dispose or evicted from the demolition site until the survey is conducted and rehabilitation is provided to the residents as per the DUSIB policy of 2015.
As per the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015 and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board. The residents who can establish their residence prior to 01.01.2015 are eligible for rehabilitation under the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015.
It is observed that in the case Ajay Maken v. Union of India, Reliance is placed on the Supreme Court decision and the High Court decision in the case Sudama Singh & Ors. v. Government of Delhi & Anr, it was held in the case that that removal of jhuggis without ensuring relocation would amount of gross violation of Fundamental Rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. Further, it was held that the agencies conducting the demolitions ought to conduct survey before undertaking any demolition.
It is submitted that these observations would apply across the board, in the entire NCT of Delhi.
Advocates Vrinda Bhandari, Shiyaz Razaq, Kaoliangpou Kamei, Jepi Y Chisho and Paul Kumar Kalai, represented the petitioner.
TELANGANA HIGH COURT: PLACE OF RESIDENCE OF THE ARBITRATOR WOULD NOT BE THE SEAT OF ARBITRATION
The High Court of Telangana in the case M/s S. Square Infra v. Garneni Chalapathi Rao observed and held that the place of residence of the arbitrator would not determine the seat of arbitration.
The Single bench comprising of Justice P. Sree Sudha observed and held that merely because an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad has been appointed, it does not mean that only the Courts at Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration agreement.
Facts of the Case:
In the present case, after the dispute arouse between the parties, the respondent sent a letter to the petitioner for nomination an arbitrator who is residing in Hyderabad. To its said notice, petitioner replied and declined the appointment of the arbitrator for the reason that there was no dispute which required the appointment of an arbitrator.
A suit was filled by the respondent before the VII Additional District Judge Sangareddy, seeking for relief of permanent injunction. An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act and the parties referred to the arbitration.
An application was filled by the respondent under section 9 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act before the Principal District Judge, Sangareddy, Subsequently, an application was filled by the petitioner for transferring the application from the Court at Sangareddy to Court at Hyderabad.
Contentions made by Parties:
On the following grounds, the petitioner sought the transfer of application.
An arbitrator residing in Hyderabad was nominated to respondent. However, only the courts in Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of the arbitration.
It was stated that the nomination of an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad amounted to designating Hyderabad as the Seat of Arbitration.
On the following grounds, the respondent countered the submissions of the petitioner:
An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the A&C Act before the Court at Sangareddy. However, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act, only the court at Sangareddy would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration.
The Court held that the seat of arbitration would not be decide by the place of residence of the arbitrator.
The argument of the petitioner was rejected by the court that since the respondent had initially nominated an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad, the Hyderabad Court would have the jurisdiction.
The court stated that merely because a party has nominated an arbitrator who resides in Hyderabad, the same would not designate Hyderabad as the Seat of arbitration in absence of any designation of the seat under the arbitration agreement.
It was further stated by the court that the application filled by the petitioner filled under Section 8 application before the Court at Sangareddy consequent to which the parties were referred to arbitration. Therefore, the Court would have the jurisdiction, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act.
The Transfer petition was dismissed by the Court.
DELHI HIGH COURT REMANDS IN THE MATTER BACK TO ASSESSING OFFICER AFTER SETTING ASIDE: JUST 3 DAYS’ TIME GRANTED TO RESPOND TO THE INCOME TAX NOTICE
The Delhi High Court in the case Shubham Thakral Vs ITO, the Delhi bench comprising of Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora observed and remanded the matter back to the assessing officer as just 3 days’ time was granted to respond to the income tax notice.
In the present case, the petitioner/assessee assailed the notice under Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018–19.
It was contended by the assessee that only three days’ time was granted to the assessee to respond, as against the mandatory statutory period of at least seven days. However, despite of the fact that the annexure attached to the notice gave the petitioner eight days to respond, the e-filing submission portal was closed earlier, in violation of Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act.
Furthermore, the petitioner relied on the decision of Delhi High Court, in the case of Shri Sai Co-operative Thrift and Credit Society Ltd versus ITO, the Delhi High Court in the case held that under Section 148A (b), a minimum time of seven days has to be granted to the assessee to file its reply to the show cause notice.
No objections were raised by the department/respondent to the matter being returned to the Assessing Officer for a fresh decision in accordance with the law. Accordingly, the court set aside the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018-19. The Assessing officer was directed by the court to pass a fresh reasoned order in accordance with the law after considering the reply of the petitioner, which was directed to be filed within a week.
ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT: ADVOCATES SHOULDN’T ADVISE CLIENTS TO REAGITATE MATTERS IF THERE IS NO ERROR APPARENT ON FACE OF RECORD
The Allahabad High Court in the case Malhan and 17 Others Vs. State Of U.P. And Another observed and stated that an advocate should be given such a piece of advice when there is no error apparent on the face of the record nor was there any reason why the matter be re-agitated it was finally decided.
The bench comprising of Justice Dr. Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Justice Vivek Varma observed while dealing with the civil review application wherein the bench observed the concerned advised his client to make a chance by filling the instant review application after a period of six year.
In the present case, a civil review petition was filled along with the application under section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963., the application was filled for seeking condonation of delay in filling the application, the application was filled with a delay of six years i.e., 1900 days.
It was stated by the applicant that the review application could not be filled due to the blockage of public transportation on account of the COVID-19 guidelines.
Moreover, the court observed that the appeals were disposed of by the Apex Court in the year 2016 and only in 2020-2021, the pandemic struck India and furthermore, it cannot be said that due to the COVID guidelines the public transportation was blocked and however, the applicant could not come to Allahabad Court to file review.
Further, it was stated that the court asked the counsel for the review applicants to explain the delay in filling the review application, to which the council gave a strange reply that the counsel had advised the clients that they must take a chance by filling this review application after a period of six years.
Following this, the Court observed:
The court noted that an advocate should not give such an advice when there is no error apparent on the face of record nor was there any other reason that when the matter was finally decided, why the matter be re-agitated.
It was stated that the court has no reason to condone the delay of six years as the same was not explained as to why this review application is filed after such an inordinate delay.
The Court opined that the lapse in approaching the court within the time is understandable but a total inaction for long period of delay without any explanation whatsoever and that too in absence of showing any sincere attempt on the part of suiter, this would add to his negligence and the relevant factor going against him.
The court observed that careless and reckless is shown by the review applicant in approaching the court and due to the condemnation of delay in the application with a token cost of Rs.10,000/, the court dismissed the application.
SUPREME COURT CRITICISES HIGH COURT: POSTING ANTICIPATORY BAIL PLEA AFTER TWO MONTHS CAN’T BE APPRECIATED
The Supreme Court in the case Sanjay versus The State (NCT of Delhi) & ANR observed and stated that in the case where personal liberty is involved, the court is expected to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other. Further, the top court observed that posting of an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.
The bench comprising of Justice C. T. Ravikumar and the Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing a June 2 SLP against the Delhi High Court in a petition filed under section 420, 467, 468, 471, 120-B, 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for seeking anticipatory bail in a 2022 FIR, a notice is issued. It was stated that the learned APP for the state is present and accepts the notice and seeks time to file status report. The High Court in the impugned order stated that Let the status report be filed by the state prior to the next date with an advance copy to the learned counsel for the petitioner. The matter is to be list on 31.08.2022.
It was noted by the bench comprising of Justice Ravikumar and the Justice Dhulia that in the captioned Special Leave Petition, the grievance of the petitioner is that the application for anticipatory bail moved by the petitioner, being Crl. M.A. No. 11480 of 2022 in Bail Application No. 1751 of 2022 without granting any interim protection, was posted to 31.08.2022. on 24.05.2022, the bail application was moved on.
However, the bench asserted that the bench is of the considered view that in a matter involving personal liberty, the Court is expected to to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other.
It was declared by the bench that at any rate posting an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.
Further, the bench requested to the High Court to dispose off the application for anticipatory bail on its own merits and in accordance with law expeditiously, preferably within a period of three weeks after reopening of the Court. Adding to it, the bench stated that if the main application could not be disposed off, for any reason, within the stipulated time, relief sought for in the interlocutory and on and on its own merits, the application shall be considered.
While disposing of the SLP, the bench directed in its order that we grant interim protection from arrest to the petitioner herein, Till such time.
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