To ease the practical difficulties of physical service of the notices, summons and exchange of pleadings/documents in the legal proceedings during the period of lockdown due to Covid-19, the Supreme Court of India has allowed the service of such documents through email, fax and commonly used messaging apps WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, etc. A party needs to additionally send an email if the documents are sent by the messaging app and the date of service of such documents through the messaging app and email should be the same.

The Supreme Court ordered in I.A. No. 48461/2020- Service of all notices, summons and exchange of pleadings:

Service of notices, summons and exchange of pleadings/documents, is a requirement of virtually every legal proceeding. Service of notices, summons and pleadings etc. have not been possible during the period of lockdown because this involves visits to post offices, courier companies or physical delivery of notices, summons and pleadings. We, therefore, consider it appropriate to direct that such services of all the above may be effected by e-mail, FAX, commonly used instant messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal etc. However, if a party intends to effect service by means of said instant messaging services, we direct that in addition thereto, the party must also effect service of the same document/documents by e-mail, simultaneously on the same date.

Effect of the Supreme Court’s order in the trade mark proceedings:

As per Rule 18 of the Trade Marks Rules, 2017, the Registrar of Trade Marks has already been serving notices, pleadings and documents to the parties through email communication. Rule 18 is reproduced as below:

Rule 18. Service of Documents by the Registrar. — (1) All communications and documents in relation to application or opposition matter or registered trademark may be served by the Registrar by leaving them at, or sending them by post to the address for service of the party concerned or by email communication.

(2) Any communication or document so sent shall be deemed to have been served, at the time when the letter containing the same would be delivered in the ordinary course of post or at the time of sending the email.

(3) To prove such service, it shall be sufficient to prove that the letter was properly addressed and put into the post or the email communication was sent to the email id provided by the party concerned.

As per Rule 14 of the Trade Marks Rules, 2017, the documents required to be filed with the Registrar can also be filed electronically but the parties to the proceedings need to send the documents to each other by hand or through the post by a prepaid letter.

Rule 14. Service of documents. — (1) All applications, notices, statements, papers having representations affixed thereto, or other documents authorised or required by the Act or the rules made thereunder, served, left or sent, at or to the Trade Marks Registry or with or to the Registrar or any other person may be delivered by hand or sent through the post by a prepaid letter or may be submitted electronically in the manner as laid down by the Registrar.

(2) An application or any document so sent shall be deemed to have been made, served, left or sent at the time when the letter containing the same would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.

(3) In proving such sending, it shall be sufficient to prove that the letter was properly addressed and put into the post.

(4) After the filing of an application in the Trade Marks Registry, any person while making any correspondence relating thereto shall furnish the following particulars, namely:—

  • the application number or numbers, if any;
  • the date and place of filing;
  • the appropriate class or classes, as the case may be, in   relation to which the application is filed;
  • an address for communication; and
  • the concerned agent's code, if any, and the concerned Proprietor's code, if allotted.

(5) The Registrar after informing the public in the Journal may accept applications, notices, statements, or other documents online through the gateway provided for this purpose, or in case of documents not requiring the payment of a fee, through e-mail to a designated email address for the purpose.

The order passed by the Supreme Court has an overriding effect on the Rule 14 of the Trade Marks Rules, 2017. The documents to be sent by the parties to each other can be sent/served in electronic form instead of sending by hand or by post and the same will be considered as a valid service of documents.