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January 9, 2021

Comment: Need of the hour TM Office should take up opposition matters through virtual mode

Author: Siddharth Varshney

As COVID-19 swept the world, the consequent mandatory health protections, such as nationwide lockdown and social distancing resulted in traditional court system and physical hearings coming  to a halt. As a result, the legal profession was forced to adapt to  the technology-enabled virtual courts, which arrived much sooner than expected.

The Trade Marks Office (“TM Office”) also adapting to this novel situation, notified that it will commence show-cause hearings in  trademark matters through video conferencing.[1] However, the TM Office has not made these virtual hearings mandatory and  has provided that only those matters will be listed  wherein applicants or their authorised agents have consented (via email to the TM Office) to attend hearings through video conferencing.

The concept of virtual hearings is not new and was introduced by the Trade Marks Rules, 2017 with the objective of expediting the registration process. As a matter of fact, the TM Office even in the past has conducted virtual hearings , but it never attracted the attention of practitioners much . However, currently, with the pandemic radically changing the state of affairs, virtual hearings  in trademark matters is a much appreciated move. The same is reckoned to not only provide relief to cases drastically distressed by an absolute lockdown,  but also help in clearing  the backlog at the TM Office.

 Notably, at present, the TM Office has only specified that  virtual hearings  will be held in  show-cause matters. However, it should be taken into consideration that remote and virtual functioning is the new way of the world’s working and it is here to stay. Given the state of backlog in the contested/opposition matters at the TM Office, it is imperative that introducing a policy for conducting virtual hearings  in opposition matters as well be considered. We are seeing a total shift in outlook and approach at all levels, with the Supreme Court, the High Courts, and other judicial bodies attending to contested cases through virtual mode on a day-to-day basis. In light of this, the TM Office should also consider going fully virtual viz. even in contested/opposition matters. .

As the TM Office will likely continue its operations virtually for the time being, enabling attendance to opposition matters through virtual mode will only be a step  forward  and may very well be appreciated by practitioners and as well as the concerned parties. As of now, the TM Office continues to conduct virtual hearings in show-cause matters, however it will be interesting to see as and when the TM Office commences attending to contested matters virtually.

[1] Trade Marks Registry Public Notice dated August 26, 2020, < http://ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/News/707_1_Public_Notice_TLA.pdf>, last accessed on December 30, 2020.

Disclaimer: Views, opinions, interpretations are solely those of the author, not of the firm (ALG India Law Offices LLP) nor reflective thereof. Author submissions are not checked for plagiarism or any other aspect before being posted.

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