Res Judicata on IP – Related Judgements

Jan 202020

You must have seen or observed many times in India that there have been many cases which have been given a particular judgement by the lower court and then it is escalated or taken to the higher court if the parties think that judgement was not as per their expectations. Law in India and in most of the countries, gives exclusive rights to the parties to appeal to higher courts if they are not satisfied with the judgement of the lower court. Patent Attorney in India in cases related to patents and Intellectual Property, take cases to higher courts when their parties want them to appeal to the higher courts. There is a term in law that prevents this which is called “Res Judicata” which is a latin word which means that the case that has been decided from one court cannot be appealed at the higher courts. The higher courts would apply Res Judicata and reject the plea of the party

The literal meaning of Res Judicata is something which has been judged already. In terms of Intellectual Property related judgements, Res Judicata represents cases for which parties have filed an infringement but did not get satisfactory judgements in their favours and appealed to higher courts. Res Judicata restricts the appeals to the higher courts and essentially states that once the matter has been decided by the competent court, no party can be permitted to reopen the case. Res Judicata is one of the oldest beliefs in law and has been followed since ages. It used to be a common law earlier from which it got included in the code of civil procedure and later was finally adopted by the legal system of India.

Inclusions and pre-requisites necessary in Res Judicata
One of the most essential and important objectives of Res Judicata is that a judicial decision must be accepted as correct and no man must be punished twice for the same offence. In general, these objectives stand clear in all civil and criminal cases. Even in cases of Intellectual Property Infringements, these objectives of the doctrine of Res Judicata is absolutely clear and helpful in judgements.

Few of the pre-requisites which are necessary in the doctrine are that the judgement must be final and based on the merits. Both in the first and second suits, claims must be the same and must not differ at all. Between the two parties, the case should have been finally settled.

Exceptions in Res Judicata
There are exceptions in every doctrine and Res Judicata has some exceptions as well. Patent Attorney in India will actually read the judgement from the lower court and decide whether Res Judicata must be applied on the final judgement or not. There are few exceptions in this doctrine where the court decides whether res Judicata must be applied or not. These must be highlighted for understanding.

  1. If the upper court thinks that the judgement made by the lower or former court was influenced or taken by fraud, they have all the rights not to apply Res Judicata.
  2. Res Judicata should not be applied when the Special Leave Petition or SLP is dismissed without decision. The formal suit must be decided by the court in order to obtain the Res Judicata
  3. If the interim order is passed on the former suit, doctrine of Res Judicata cannot be applied as interim orders are immediate relief given to the parties and can be altered at any time by an application so when the decision has not been made final, the doctrine has no scope of application.
  4. Adjudication of matter in the former suit must be made aware to the court by the opposite party failing to do so will take the decision against him. 
  5. The doctrine of res judicata will not be applied to the subsequent suit, if the court that has no jurisdiction to decide the matter decides the former suit.
  6. If there has been a change in law and the new law provides new rights, in that case doctrine of Res Judicata becomes null and void from application.

Loopholes in the doctrine of Res Judicata
There are loopholes in every system and Res Judicata is no different. Starting from the formation to its application, it has several loopholes which must be highlighted for the purpose of understanding.

  1. As well all know that application of res judicata restricts the upper courts to take up the cases which have been decided by the lower courts, so the doctrine somehow directly or indirectly hampers justice by not allowing parties to appeal further. This might be a big dissatisfaction for parties who face infringements of Intellectual Property rights and can cost them big
  2. Res Judicata is sometimes applied to judgements which are contrary to law, which is unfair to the justice system and also to parties who have filed cases.
  3. In cases of appeals, the doctrine of res judicata is not applicable.
  4. When it comes to exception, there are very limited in this doctrine which is a loophole in itself.
  5. If a case is decided on the plea of the doctrine of res judicata, it an be taken to court again

Failure of court in applying Res Judicata
There have been a few cases when the court has failed to apply the doctrine of Res Judicata. If such cases happens and the court gives a contradictory decision on the matter which has been brought to the court from the lower court, the matter is transferred to a third court. On the basis of the decision given by the former suits, the third court will apply res judicata accordingly and solve the matter. In some cases, res judicata will not be applied even by the third court but that totally depends on its individual decision and decision of the former suits.

Doctrine of Res Judicata is not only applicable in India but is prevalent in the whole world. It is one of the most important parts of the Indian legal system and plays a vital role in patent infringements and patent laws. This doctrine is for the benefit of the parties and keeps the faith in the justice, intact.

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