Using IPR as a tool to defend Indian Army – By Raunaq Bali

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The Indian Army revealed its new combat uniform on the 74th Army Day on 15th January this year. The new uniform was developed with the assistance of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT).

The uniform is one-of-a-kind because of its exclusive digital camouflage pattern, modern and functional design, and lighter, stronger, and more breathable fabric. As a result, to maintain its exclusivity, the Army wishes to implement control measures.

The army has claimed ownership of the new combat uniform pattern and design by applying with the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs& Trade marks in April 2022.

Following the grant of the patent and the design and the intellectual property rights, any unauthorised sale of the uniforms or the uniform fabric shall be a punishable offence, and the provisions of the Patents Act, 1970 and Designs Act 2000 shall apply.

The Army raised the issue of “uncontrolled proliferation” of the existing combat uniform, which has resulted in security vulnerabilities and the availability of “unauthorised variants” for purchase from Army Cantonments and Military Stations. To combat this, the Army intends to take harsh measures against dealers who sell unlicensed but similar-looking uniforms and fabric of the new pattern.

Army personnel have been instructed not to purchase the new uniform from unapproved vendors.

Following the completion of the patent process, any unauthorised shopkeeper selling the new combat uniform will face legal action. Certain cloth and tailoring shops near Army Cantonments and military stations have begun stocking unapproved variants of the new uniform.

In protecting the uniform’s design and pattern against these unauthorised representations, the Designs Act of 2000 will play an important role.

As with any other IP right, design registration grants the Proprietor a monopolistic right that allows him/her to legally prohibit others from reproducing, manufacturing, selling, or dealing in the registered design without his/her prior consent. The registration of a design is especially useful for entities where the shape of the product has aesthetic value and the entity wishes to have exclusivity over the said novel and original design applied to its product(s) or article (s). The Indian Army’s new combat uniform has a novel design as well as an aesthetic value, and since the design has been applied to the article itself, the new uniforms shall be entitled to be covered under the protection of the Designs Act, 2000.

In addition to the foregoing, the design sought for protection must be new or original, that is, it must not have been previously disclosed to the public in India or elsewhere in the world through prior publication, prior use, or any other means. The design should be easily distinguishable from designs or combinations of designs that are already registered, pre-existing, or publicly disclosed.

Penalty under the Patents Act: 

Section 108 of the Patents Act of 1970 states that a court may grant an injunction subject to such terms if any, as the court deems appropriate, as well as damages or an account of profits in any suit for infringement. An order for the infringer’s articles to be delivered or destroyed may also be issued. The Court may also order that the infringing goods, as well as materials primarily used in the manufacture of infringing goods, be seized, forfeited, or destroyed, depending on the facts of the case.

Penalty under the Designs Act:

Section 22 of the Designs Act of 2000 states that any fraudulent or obvious imitation of a registered design without the consent of the proprietor is illegal, and it also prohibits the import of such material that closely resembles a registered design. The section expressly states that in a civil case, compensation for infringement of one registered design shall not exceed Rs. 50,000/-.

Enforcing the protection of the design and preventing the unauthorised sale of uniforms and their fabrics is an important goal for national security and IPR laws serve as a valuable tool for the same.

DISCLAIMER- 

The views are that of author’s own and not necessarily the views of IPTSE Academy. This blog is a platform for academic discussions and hence authors have been given flexibility to convey their thought process.

AUTHOR:

Raunaq Bali

Student, Faculty of Law

University of Delhi

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