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. 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.
 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.
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