Delhi High Court: Registrar Cannot Extend Time for Evidence Filing in Trademark Opposition

Delhi HC: Registrar lacks power to extend evidence filing time in Sun Pharma Laboratories Ltd v Dabur India Ltd & Anr.

In a landmark ruling on February 9, 2024, a judge at the Delhi High Court emphasized that the trademark registrar lacks discretionary power to extend deadlines for submitting evidence in trademark opposition proceedings. This ruling came in response to an appeal filed by Sun Pharma Laboratories Ltd against Dabur India Ltd & Anr following a trademark opposition proceeding.

The case stemmed from Sun Pharma's appeal after the registrar abandoned its opposition against Dabur due to a delay in serving evidence. While Sun Pharma had filed its evidence within the two-month deadline, there was a one-day delay in serving it on Dabur. The primary question before the court was whether opposition timelines under the statute are mandatory or directory.

Under relevant legislation, including Section 21 of the Trade Marks Act and accompanying rules, evidence must be submitted within prescribed timelines. Rule 50 of the 2002 Trade Mark Rules previously allowed for a one-month extension, but this provision was removed under the current 2017 Rules. The court observed that this amendment indicated a clear intention to enforce strict timelines in opposition proceedings.

The court referenced past judicial precedents, including Sunrider v Hindustan Lever and Mahesh Gupta v Registrar of Trademarks, which interpreted similar rules as mandatory. It emphasized that the registrar's discretion to extend time periods has been withdrawn under the current framework.

The judge stated, "The above transition and evolution of the Rules points to a clear intention to ensure that strict timelines are prescribed for conclusion of pleadings/evidence in opposition proceedingsā€¦ extensions cannot be granted, when the time periods are specifically prescribed in the Rules."

In its ruling, the court affirmed that opposition cannot be abandoned solely due to a delay in serving evidence, especially if the evidence was timely filed with the registry. It stressed that the purpose of the statute is to maintain strict timelines and prevent repeated extensions from hindering the trademark registration process.

Representatives for the parties involved included Mr. Pradeep Kumar Kaushik and Dr. Sunil Kumar, advocates for the petitioner, and Mr. Laksh Khanna, representing the State, with Mr. Aditya Vikram and Mr. Ayushman, advocates for the respondents.