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Unsolved Mystery - Why did the Indian Trade Marks Registry abandon thousands of applications?

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

This week's big news that rocked the trademarks industry was the unilateral abandonment of thousands of applications in India in an attempt to clear backlog.

While, fortunately, the abandonments were stayed by the Delhi High Court because of the uproar in the industry and, more specifically, because of the quick actions of the IP Attorneys Association in India, there is still some unsettled feeling about the whole incident in my mind.

Why are the trademark owners' rights taking a back seat to the Registry's interest in clearing backlogs?

First, this has happened before some years back and the reasons given then were that the backlog of cases had to be cleared primarily so that India could join the Madrid Protocol. Second, is abandonment the only solution to clearing backlog and if so, why? Third, if such unilateral actions can be taken by the Indian Trade Marks Registry, then how would we, as IP professionals, instil confidence in our clients that this will never happen again? Finally, why are the trademark owners' rights taking a back seat to the Registry's interest in clearing backlogs?

The answers remain shrouded in mystery. Yes, it is a relief that the abandonments were stayed but is that all? Shouldn't there be an explanation or an inquiry as to why this happened in the first place? The Indian Trade Marks Registry should shed some light into the reasons behind what happened. In my view, it is only when the rationale behind the entire saga is explained can the confidence in the trademark process in India be once again restored.

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