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Indian litigation is speeding up – get ready

Patent litigation in India is now faster and smoother than ever before, catching some counsel off guard

That was the message of Pravin Anand of Anand & Anand as he chaired a session on India at the International Patent Forum, hosted by Managing IP today

Anand admitted that it was hard to describe the whole of the Indian court system in one talk, likening it to showing the details of a Himalayan peak in a flash of lightning. But it was fairly easy to sum up: India has a weak patent statute and effective anti-patent lobbying, but both are getting better.

Chief among India’s problems with its patent statute are both pre- and post-grant oppositions, rigid deadlines and heavy penalties for not complying with the working requirements.

There is also aggressive lobbying from the generics companies, copyleft and open-source advocates, with almost no press supporting the patentees – something highlighted by the recent Novartis case, which goes before the Indian Supreme Court on April 19.

“These lobbyists have penetrated every part of the training programme for judges, so indoctrinating them from the start, and work the patent system very cleverly,” said Anand. As an example of the latter point, he mentioned that generics companies are among the biggest filers of patents, despite railing against the system in public.

But things have improved, starting with the 2005 patent amendments, which have “now finally been enforced everywhere, and all the cracks filled”, said Anand. Examples of improvements are judges enforcing 30-day periods for written statements to be filed and four months for all recordal of evidence. Those cases can be completed in six months to a year.

Anand also showed the audience his own sketch of an e-court (as photography is not permitted), with a large screen that everyone in the court can see, a computer screen for the judge containing all the case files, and places where anyone can plug in a laptop and see the same files in tandem.

“The result of all these improvements is that you must plan your action before launching it, so you don’t get caught out with issues, documentation or witnesses,” said Anand.

Witnesses in particular are proving to play a big role in the new cases. In the past 20 cases, the average has been two expert witnesses on each side, with six hours of cross-examination and 150 questions asked.

Several cases, including Novartis, have been fast tracked to be heard in 2011 and as a result “this year will really show us what the future holds for patent litigation”, Anand concluded.

The International Patent Forum is being held today and tomorrow at the Chancery Court Hotel in London. For more details see page here.

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