Indian Trademarks Registry devised a new mantra to reduce backlog- simply pass an order to declare pending application as abandoned! It is estimated over 100,000 applications were abandoned in an exercise carried out by the Trademark Registry in the last two weeks of March before the end of financial year (on 31st March). Incidentally, this is also a cut off date taken by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) under the ministry of Industries to assess efficiency of Trademarks Registry. Thus it appears to be an exercise to improve the numbers by showing higher disposal rate. While the stated objective (on paper) was to remove from the system/database all such applications where the applicant had not replied to the examination report/ office action and was shown to be pending. However, the process adopted and haste of execution created chaos that may take months to clear and put further pressure on Trademark office crumbling under huge backlog.
The Trademark Registry in this exercise proceeded to abandon many applications where the applicants had timely filed its response to the examination report. How the applications were identified is not clear. It does seem from the number of applications being abandoned, in less than two weeks, that TM Registry did verification based on a software/algorithm to identify applications where the responses were not available on its online database/record. As a result it seems the system picked up all those applications as well where a) responses though filed had not been scanned and logged on to database b) filed under a wrong category e.g, correspondence c) not given the right file name etc. For all such applications an automated order abandoning the application was uploaded online. Interestingly, no intimation was sent to the applicant or his agent. Thus leaving it to the practitioners to audit all records to identify the applications they are handling and ascertain if they are a victim of this exercise.
The practitioners are red faced with this development and at loss to explain their clients what really happened. The brand owners already tired of slow progress at the TM Registry are raising their hands in exasperation. INTA’s CEO shot a letter to the Controller General of Trademarks putting on record brand owners concerns. Many local practitioners association are planning to move court to reverse the abandonment order.
Overall, the timing of this is a setback for government’s effort to strengthen IP regime to make ‘make in India’ programme successful and attract investment in manufacturing sector.